British and Spanish police are investigating why 1.5 tonnes of cocaine, worth close to $1 billion, left Chaguaramas earlier this month aboard a yacht headed for Spain. The yacht was traced across the Atlantic Ocean by satellite after it left Trinidad until Spanish Police intercepted it on Monday. The drug haul showed similar signs to one of the biggest drug cases in Ireland two years ago, which also had strong links to T&T. The La Flibuste yacht, a UK-flagged vessel, was moored at Chaguaramas earlier this month before leaving with the cargo of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in a false roof of two of the cabins.
The cocaine is worth a staggering 83 million pounds sterling, which at today's exchange rate amounts to TT$830 million. As it left Chaguaramas it was traced by satellite and tailed by British intelligence Officers. On Monday, officers of the Special Operations Unit, of the Spanish National Police, raided the vessel some 120 miles of Cadiz, Portugal, and transported it to Spain. Three men, a Spaniard and two Frenchmen, are being questioned about from whom in T&T they collected the drugs and how they managed to make it out of the country undetected. Spanish police are saying further arrests may follow soon.
The operation, which was carried out with the co-operation of British police, began early this month when police became aware of the yacht moored in Port-of-Spain, according to a statement issued by the Spanish police. Spanish police say they were informed the yacht had cruised off Trinidad just under a month ago and was heading for a Spanish marina. It is not clear whether local law enforcement officers played any part in the tip-off. Intelligence agencies in Spain and England are probing deeper because of the similarity between this bust and one in 2008, in which the exact amount of cocaine was also found on a yacht that originated from Trinidad. That yacht, Dances with Waves, also was tracked from Trinidad across the Atlantic by a US spy satellite.
It developed engine trouble off the coast of Ireland before being intercepted. Three men who were arrested and tried in that matter were said to have travelled to T&T, via Spain and Venezuela, and bought the vessel In T&T. In 2002 a British court was told several politicians from Trinidad were said to have had a close alliance with a British millionaire-drug-pusher, who was at the time in hiding from British authorities. Those reports were carried in the local media, identifying a number of places in Chaguaramas, said to be responsible for the outfitting and loading of cocaine on vessels for overseas delivery. The court had heard cocaine was moving from Latin America, through Trinidad, to small seaports in southern England. A yacht, known as the Sea Mist, was interdicted in Ireland and 599 kilos of cocaine were discovered by Irish customs.
The captain of that vessel, John Ewart, who was subsequently sentenced to 17 years imprisonment for illicit drug-trafficking, reportedly told the international press the Sea Mist was outfitted and loaded in Chaguaramas. The court also heard that in conjunction with the Sea Mist a series of yachts left their Chaguaramas anchorages laden with cocaine and even heroin for England and ports in Europe. Two other vessels also were given similar treatment at Chaguaramas. They are the yacht The Aquarius, with 226.6 kilos of cocaine for delivery to Antigua in 1994, and The Obsession, with over 200 kilos of cocaine destined for Britain in 1996. Local intelligence authorities are said to be closely working with their international counterparts on Monday's bust.