Royal Navy warship seizes record £150m of drugs on Arabian Sea’s ‘hash highway’ and ‘smack track’

A Royal Navy warship has seized more than two tons of hashish, in its sixth drugs haul of recent months while tackling traffickers in the Arabian Sea.

HMS Dragon is believed to have set a Royal Navy record for drugs capture in the region with a string of major heroin and hashish hauls.

The drugs captured over several weeks of counter narcotics patrols are estimated to be worth more than £150m in total, and to weigh in at more than 15 tons.

The Type-45 air defence destroyer has been targeting maritime smugglers’ routes running from the Makran coast of Iran and Pakistan, down to Yemen and East Africa.

Last year, the United Nations warned an unprecedented surge of high quality and low cost Afghan heroin was bound for the world’s streets after the country’s opium crop jumped two thirds to record levels.

Much of the drugs flowing through the so-called “hash highway” to Yemen and “smack track” to East Africa will end up in Europe and on the streets of Britain, said the commanding officer, Cdr Mike Carter Quinn.

He said: “We are not aware of any other Royal Navy ship that has been out in this region having anything close to the amount of success that we have had, either in the number of seizures or the amount of drugs seized, the value of those.”

The area is a notorious smuggling route for drugs near the start of their journey from Afghanistan to Europe. Hashish is typically transported onwards to Europe from Yemen and heroin onwards from East Africa, said Cdr Carter Quinn.

“ It’s well understood that the proceeds of these sales find their way into the hands of terrorists and transnational criminals across the region and obviously they are having a direct impact on the streets of Europe and the UK as well,” he said.

The drugs are usually transported in fishing dhows which mingle with genuine fishing and merchant vessels in the busy waters. The Portsmouth-based vessel’s Wildcat helicopter had been used to search for suspicious-looking boats which appeared to be sailing across the sea rather than fishing he said.

Vessels had been searched by teams of sailors and Royal Marines, with drugs found hidden under nets, inside ice holds, or stowed in smuggling compartments in bulkheads.

During the most recent seizure, on February 27, searchers had found 100 21kg hessian sacks stashed with individually wrapped packages of sticky hashish resin.

Cdr Carter Quinn said they smugglers being intercepted were “lowly paid mules” regularly criss-crossing the waters.

“The big money is going elsewhere,” he told the Telegraph.

“It’s a significant trade, there are lots of these boats moving on a daily basis. We’ve seen familiar faces across different boardings. These people are going back, picking up more drugs and doing similar runs.”

Once seized, the drugs are disposed of.

He said: “You can imagine, two tons of hashish or even half a ton of heroin, once that hits the streets of Europe, that’s being broken up into smaller amounts, its mixed with other things. Two tons that we catch here becomes many more tons when it reaches Europe.”

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