LONDON (Reuters) - Two Turkish sailors were jailed for a total of 42 years on Friday after their attempt to smuggle a huge haul of cocaine into Europe was thwarted, partly due to some swift international co-operation between Britain and Tanzania.
Some 3.2 tonnes of cocaine, the biggest class A drug find ever made in Britain, was found on a ship intercepted off the east coast of Scotland last year.
Drugs worth 512 million pounds ($664 million) were being shipped over to the Netherlands, prosecutors said, after traveling from South America via Guyana and Tenerife.
British authorities intercepted the cargo off the coast of Aberdeen in April 2015 after the go-ahead from Tanzania, where the ship was registered, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
"Although there was strong intelligence that the boat was carrying a large volume of drugs, it could not be boarded in international waters by the UK authorities without the permission of the Tanzanian government – something they had never previously granted," the CPS said in a statement.
But the CPS’s Criminal Justice Advisor in Tanzania managed to obtain authority "from the highest political level" within 24 hours, it added.
"Without the swift actions of our Criminal Justice Adviser there was a high risk that the vessel may have escaped and we would never have been able to bring these men to justice," said Sue Patten, Head of the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division.
The traffickers had hidden the drugs, wrapped in 128 bales together weighing as much as a grown elephant, in a tank deep within the hull of the vessel.
"This was one of the most intricate concealments we've ever encountered," said Tony McMullin, a regional director at Britain's Border Force.
Captain Mumin Sahin, 47, and first officer Emin Ozmen, 51, from Istanbul were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison respectively at the High Court in Glasgow.
Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Stephen Addison