A MAJOR shipment of high-quality cocaine was intercepted as part of a joint international criminal investigation.
Spearheading the operation, the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) seized 4.2 tonnes of cocaine that was bound for Europe.
The shipment - worth several hundreds of million euro - is understood to have been designated for sale in Ireland.
Intelligence shared between the NCA and other European authorities led to the identification of a fishing vessel that was carrying the illicit cargo.
On Sunday, January 17, a French naval vessel apprehended the boat which was flying the Venezuelan flag in international waters east of Barbados.
French forces boarded the vessel, took eight crew members into custody, and later handed them over to local judicial authorities.
The NCA estimate the drugs found on board to have a street value of several hundred million pounds if distributed by criminal networks in Europe.
Deputy Director Tom Dowdall of NCA International said: "The role played by the NCA in identifying and locating the vessel was critical to the success of the operation.
"Through MAOC-N we were then able to ensure that the boat was intercepted by our partners, in this case the French Navy.
"Working with our European partners we have stopped a huge haul of drugs from making it onto the European market, and I’ve no doubt some of that would have ended up in the UK in the hands of criminal gangs also engaged in violence and exploitation.
"A seizure of this size will have a dramatic impact on the organised crime groups involved and deprive them of huge profits."
NCA officers shared intelligence and coordinated the international effort - involving law enforcement and military assets - along with the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.