Spanish Customs Vessel Intercepts Drug-Laden Yacht in Mid-Atlantic

drugs windwhisperer
Courtesy NCA

Published Jun 29, 2021 7:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Earlier this month, Spanish customs agents intercepted a sailing yacht in the mid-Atlantic and arrested five British crewmembers who were allegedly in possession of one tonne of cocaine. 

The interdiction stemmed from a long-running investigation focused on a former member of the British Royal Navy who was based in Spain. This person, whose close relationship with international drug trafficking was already known to the authorities, had strong links with other criminal organizations based in the UK, Ukraine and elsewhere.

In addition to previous contact with known drug dealers, this individual owned several companies that were ostensibly dedicated to the sale and rental of yachts. According to Spanish police, he also used these vessels to transport drugs for a variety of criminal groups.

Since last August, the investigation has led to successful police raids at Ceuta, Sotogrande, Cadiz and Malaga, resulting in the arrest of ten people and the seizure of 1,600 kilos of hashish. 

The investigators have also honed in on a second "branch" of the criminal organization that was dedicated to the lucrative transatlantic cocaine trade. As a result of this line of investigation, Spanish police learned of the impending departure of a drug-laden sailing yacht - the Windwhisperer - from the Caribbean.

In response, the Spanish customs vessel Fulmar and her crew were tasked with carrying out an interdiction mission in the mid-Atlantic. They accomplished the intercept on June 13. A search of the yacht revealed one tonne of cocaine in neatly-packed bags, and the yacht's crew of five were taken under arrest. 

The Fulmar returned to port at Cadiz with the contraband and the suspects on June 23. Two additional suspects were arrested in Campo de Gibraltar and Malaga in connection with the Windwhisperer bust, and two more individuals who had been arrested in previous raids are believed to be implicated as well. 

“This is a huge haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £80million. I have no doubt the drugs on board were destined for the streets of the UK, so this seizure is a significant result," said Dave Hucker, head of European operations of Britain's National Crime Agency, which has been participating in the investigation. “We know that the criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain, and the loss of the profit that would have been made from these drugs will have a major impact on the crime groups involved."