Customs halt ferry to make cannabis arrests

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The Independent Online
Customs officials stopped a passenger ferry to arrest two men in connection with pounds 4.5m worth of cannabis resin found aboard an abandoned yacht drifting off the Devon coast, it was learned yesterday.

The two men were arrested at midnight aboard the ferry Konigin Beatrix which was halted five miles off the Essex port of Harwich, en route for the Netherlands. The men, both British and in their forties, are being questioned at Harwich.

The arrests were made just days after the Italian registered yacht Carla II was brought into Brixham, South Devon, by trawlermen who found her abandoned at sea. Crewmen from the locally-based Marilyn Jayne boarded the wallowing yacht in the early hours of Thursday.

It is understood that Carla II nearly collided with the trawler, which they believed was one of the Customs cutters that patrol the area. Two men jumped from the vessel on to a high-speed launch, which the trawlermen said they saw speeding away from the area where the yacht was found.

It is believed that Customs men are now seeking the driver of the launch, as a well as a number of other people, as part of their inquiry.

The craft, whose appearance in home waters took Customs by surprise, had around a tonne of cannabis resin - probably from Morocco. It is understood the drugs, which began their voyage from Gibraltar, were destined for the streets of Britain.

The ferry stopped five miles off the coast of the UK at 11pm and was boarded by Customs officers. Two men were arrested and the ferry was allowed to proceed to Zeebrugge. The ferry sailed from Harwich. The two men have been taken from Harwich to Torquay where they will later be questioned by customs investigators.

Descriptions of two men had been circulated to ports and airports after the yacht was brought into port, and Customs received information which led them to stop the ferry.