The drugs, worth around £100 million wholesale, were found on a South American fishing vessel around 1,200 nautical miles south west of the Canary Islands

Cocaine, worth an estimated £100 million wholesale, has been seized from a South America fishing boat in the Atlantic Ocean.

The joint operation involved the National Crime Agency (NCA), the Spanish National Police and the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Acting on intelligence from the NCA, the Ali Primera fishing vessel was boarded by Spanish customs and police officers almost 1,200 nautical miles south west of the Canary Islands.

The seven crew were all arrested.

The vessel was then taken to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria where a search was carried out. 80 bales of cocaine and a firearm were discovered.

According to the NCA, based on UK prices, the drugs would have had a wholesale value of almost £100,000,000 to organised crime.

If cut and sold at street level purity, the haul could have had a potential value of two or three times that figure, it said.

NCA investigators believe the boat had sailed from Venezuela towards Europe, but had been unable to deliver its consignment of drugs.

It had turned to go back to South America when it was boarded.

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Commenting on the seizure, the deputy director of the NCA, Chris Farrimond said: “This boat was using a well-known transit route for cocaine headed from South America to Europe, and NCA officers played a crucial role in having it intercepted.”

“Given the size of the haul here it is almost certain that at least some of it would have ended up in the UK, and having it taken out in this manner will be damaging for the organised criminal networks involved,” he added.

This seizure is the latest to take place in the Atlantic and follows a seizure of 4.2 tonnes of cocaine made by the US coast guard in February 2017 from a Guyanese Fishing Vessel the Lady Michelle in an operation also involving the NCA.

The NCA said it works in close coordination on matters of maritime security with the European Maritime Analysis Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon, Portugal and the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC).