Superyacht seized with cocaine worth £160m to be auctioned | Drug trade

A superyacht seized from drug traffickers trying to bring £160million worth of cocaine to the UK will be sold on behalf of the government in an online auction this week.

Acting on a tip, Border Force and National Crime Agency officers intercepted and boarded the 120ft (37m) yacht in international waters near Guernsey last year. They discovered more than two tons of cocaine stuffed inside the boat.

The MY Kahu was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (Poca) and will be auctioned on Wednesday, minus the cocaine, with the money used to fund NCA operations.

The yacht, which has a large saloon, galley, five cabins and accommodation for four crew, is expected to sell for over £1million.

Auctioneer Mark Woods said more than 25 parties had expressed interest in buying the yacht, and several potential buyers saw the MY Kahu at an open house in Torquay last week.

Woods said bidders had arrived from Greece, southern France and even New Zealand. The New Zealand family are particularly interested in acquiring the MY Kahu, he said, as it was built in 1979 for the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The MY Kahu.

“It’s so rare for something like MY Kahu to come up for auction and she’s a wonderful vessel, so we can’t wait to see her in the hands of the highest bidder and to be able to send the proceeds to the government,” said said Woods, government contracts manager at Wilsons Auctions.

Woods, who specializes in the sale of forfeited assets, said the yacht was one of the most interesting items seized by the government under the Proceeds of Crime Act that he has sold.

“We sold all kinds of things seized under the law. It’s not our first boat, but it’s one of the biggest,” he said. “We also sold airplanes, gold bars, high value jewelry and watches, cryptocurrencies and even an Olympic gold medal horse. Then there are the cars – Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley.

“You never know what you’re going to be responsible for managing with the seized assets and it really captures the imagination of the public when it comes to the auction. It’s quite a story.

Woods said the boat was in good condition, despite the raid and extensive searches by Border Force agents. “She underwent a thorough research process when she was initially seized. However, after carrying out some work, it is now well presented and ready for auction.

The yacht left Barbados in August 2021 and crossed the Atlantic. It was intercepted 80 miles south of Plymouth by specialist Border Force and NCA officers, who raided the vessel.

Cocaine with an estimated street value of £160million was discovered wrapped in hundreds of sealed packages spread carefully around the ship to prevent the weight from driving the boat to the list. At the time of the seizure, the NCA said the cocaine was “undoubtedly believed to have been sold to communities in Britain”.

Four men accused of drug trafficking in connection with the transport were cleared after a trial last month. The Crown Prosecution Service dropped a similar charge against a fifth defendant.

Andrew Cole, 33, of Norton Road, Stockton-on-Tees, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking. He will be sentenced on May 26.

Auctions on the yacht start at 3:00 p.m. on April 27and closes at 3 p.m. on April 28.

The Proceeds of Crime Act – which was called the Al Capone Act after the American mobster – was introduced into law in 2003 by then Interior Secretary David Blunkett. He said it would target criminal ‘parasites’ with ‘flashy’ lifestyles and he hoped it would recoup up to £60million a year. “We hit organized criminals where it really hurts, in their pockets,” he said.

Under the law, £219million was recovered in the 2020-21 financial year, the last available, according to Home Office figures.

Earlier this year a court heard 15 gold bars were seized from a woman passing through Heathrow as she changed planes to India. She was stopped by Border Force officers who noticed she was trying to carry £650,000 worth of gold, weighing 15kg (33lbs), in her hand luggage.

After a two-day hearing, the bullion was handed over to the National Crime Agency under the law. The unnamed woman, who was allowed to continue her journey without the gold, claimed she was moving the bars for the jewellers. But the invoices she provided were fake.

In 2015, the government recouped nearly £1.2million by selling the seized supercar collection of a crime lord nicknamed ‘Don Car-leone’. Alexander Surin, a fugitive living in Dubai, had three Ferraris and a Rolls-Royce seized under the law.

The cars – a Ferrari Enzo, a Ferrari 599 GTB, a Ferrari California and the Rolls-Royce Phantom – were sold at luxury auction house Bonhams, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, for a total of £1,189,840 .

The Enzo, named after the founder of Ferrari and one of just 400 ever built, sold for £897,500. It was believed to be the most expensive car ever seized and sold at auction in the UK.

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