$500m heroin haul seized off coast of Tanzania

A vessel on the high seas. Patrols are on as part of an international effort to curb terrorism on the high seas. PHOTO | AFP 

A Canadian military ship has seized more than 280 kilogrammes of heroin with an estimated street value of $490 million (TSh784 billion) aboard a vessel off the coast of Tanzania.

The ship, MCS Toronto, intercepted the large shipment of heroin some 40 nautical miles off the coast of Tanzania during a routine patrol.

The seizure indicates how drug lords exploit all possible avenues to ferry their dirty merchandise to escape law enforcers.

“Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Toronto discovered 265 bags of heroin weighing more than 280kg aboard a vessel while patrolling the Indian Ocean as part of Operation ARTEMIS, a maritime security and counter-terrorism effort in the Middle East,” foreign news agencies reported Tuesday.

The narcotics were documented and disposed of, according to the Department of National Defence.

No details of the ship that was caught ferrying the drugs were provided. The Canadian vessel was on patrol in the region as part of an international effort to curb terrorism on the high seas.

Officials from both the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces and the Anti-Drugs Police Unit said they were not aware of the operation.

The TPDF spokesman, Major Erick Komba, said military ships from various countries have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and other international water bodies as part of a global campaign against piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism.

“We are not aware of the particular operation. What I know is that Tanzania has signed agreements to allow such kind of patrols to combat crime in the ocean,” Major Komba said.

The head of the Tanzanian Anti-Narcotics Unit Geofrey Nzowa also said he was not aware of the operation.

“I am aware that Canadian military ships have seized drugs off the East African coast before. Last year they impounded about 1,000kg drugs,” Mr Nzowa said.

Friday’s seizure was not the first by a Canadian military ship. A Canadian Forces communiqué says a total of 538kg of drugs were seized off the Kenyan coast late last year.

It was the largest heroin haul in the history of naval operations involving multiple allied nations, according to a Canadian Forces statement released at the time of the seizure last year.

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