A POLICE drugs expert, giving evidence at the trial of a tug boat crew accused of smuggling, has described as “unprecedented” the amount of cocaine netted in that bust.He told a jury that the 3.2 tonnes of cocaine found hidden on board a Turkish tug boat has a potential maximum street value of £512M.
Jurgen Wahla, based in Aberdeen, Scotland, was giving evidence at the trial of nine Turks accused of smuggling cocaine from Guyana, in South America, into Europe. On Monday, at the High Court in Glasgow, he was asked by advocate depute Ashley Edwards, prosecuting: “What is the potential maximum street value of the cocaine?” and DC Wahla replied: “If sold in the UK, it would be £512M if sold in gram deals and adulterated to 15 to 20 per cent pure.”
Ms Edwards then asked: “Just over half a billion pounds?” and DC Wahla responded: “That’s correct. It is a massive, massive importation, unprecedented in what I’ve seen in my experience.”
The jury has heard that MV Hamal was boarded by the Royal Navy and Border Force officers in international waters in April last year, and taken to Aberdeen harbour to be searched. DC Wahla said he was present while the cocaine was being taken from a hidden compartment in the ballast tanks at Aberdeen harbour. Detective Constable Wahla said that he tested one of the kilo blocks which was unloaded and found it was 70 per cent pure cocaine.
Asked how much the cocaine found on the boat weighed in total, he replied: “It was 3.2 tonnes of cocaine.”
The court was told by DC Wahla that 41 of the 3,200 kilo bags were tested and found to contain cocaine. The average purity was 63 per cent, with a range of between 58 and 74 per cent pure.
DC Wahla, who is in the Serious Crimes squad and is a member of the Drugs Expert Witness and Valuation Association, told the jury that cocaine is grown exclusively in South America, and distributed worldwide.
The jurors were told that he often works with Europol, based in Belgium, and the National Crime Agency.
He was asked by Miss Edwards: “What are the recognised trade routes taking the cocaine from where it is grown?” and DC Wahla replied: “It is now south of Venezuela and Guyana, because of a lot of enforcement activity by the USA patrolling the coast.
“Enforcement crackdowns, particularly in Colombia, and increased US enforcement have escalated the value of countries such as Guyana in the global drugs market,” he said.
Crew members of the MV Hamal are on trial, accused of being involved in an international drug-smuggling operation between February and April 2015. They are further alleged to have been concerned in the supply of the class ‘A’ drug between April 21 and 23, 2015.
Kayacan Dalgakiran, 64; Mustafa Guven, 48; Mustafa Ceviz, 55; Umit Colakel, 39; Ibrahim Dag, 48; Mumin Sahin, 46; Emin Ozmen, 51; Abdulkadir Cirik, 32; and Muhammet Seckin, 27, deny the charges against them.
The trial before Judge Lord Kinclaven continues. (Daily Record)