Lead Editor, Investigative
The Coast Guard yesterday intercepted a foreign tanker, Throne, off the north coast of Trinidad and seized nearly 400 kilogrammes of cocaine with an estimated street value of $160 million.
Senior intelligence sources with knowledge about the operation told Guardian Media that a special team of officers led by Jason Kelshall from the Defence Force and the Special Naval Unit (SNU) boarded the boat in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
At least ten persons were aboard when the high-powered team of officers stormed the vessel.
Intelligence sources said the crew members who were hiding were rounded up and questioned about the illegal contraband.
A thorough search of the vessel was made by the officers and they discovered the 400 kilogrammes of cocaine well hidden in the vessel’s fuel tanks. Sources say that the officers had to “do a destructive search” of the fuel tanks to find the hidden stash that was kept in a secret enclosure and tightly wrapped in material that was waterproof.
“The intelligence for this operation would have come with the help of foreign assistance,” one intelligence source told Guardian Media.
Intelligence sources say major details about the operation was being kept “under wraps.”
Guardian Media was unable to ascertain the tanker’s destination- whether it was destined to dock in Trinidad and Tobago or if had been passing through our waters when it was intercepted and boarded. This newspaper was also unable to ascertain the nationalities of the crew members.
The tanker was later brought to Staubles Bay in Chaguaramas.
Up to late yesterday evening, there was a beehive of activity at the base. Guardian Media was informed that the contraband was handed over to the police along with the crew members.
Last year in early April, Customs and T&T Coast Guard officials recovered close to $120 million worth of cocaine hidden aboard a foreign tanker that was docked at the Atlantic Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) port in Point Fortin
Customs sources had told Guardian Media that seven bales of cocaine were found attached to the rudder of the ship Hispania Spirit. The rudder is a big metal flap attached to the tail of the ship that assists in the steering of the vessel.