William's ship seizes £40m cocaine haul

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The Royal Navy warship Prince William is serving on has seized cocaine worth at least £40 million, the Ministry of Defence said today.

HMS Iron Duke intercepted a speedboat in the north Atlantic, hundreds of miles north east of Barbados, on Saturday.

US Coast Guard officials on the British frigate boarded the vessel and found 45 bales of cocaine weighing a total of 900kg (1,980lb).

William is spending time on the warship as part of a two-month secondment to the Navy aimed at preparing him for his future role as head of the armed forces.

The MoD said William was "part of the ship's company" during the drugs seizure but did not specify his exact role.

The 50ft speedboat, which appeared to be heading for Europe or West Africa, was spotted by HMS Iron Duke's Lynx helicopter and ordered to stop.

Suspicions were raised because it is unusual to see such a small vessel so far out at sea.

The cocaine found on board was transferred to the Navy frigate and the five crew members were detained. The speedboat later sank.

HMS Iron Duke's main role in the north Atlantic is to reassure and support UK overseas territories, Commonwealth countries and other friendly nations.

This includes assisting with disaster relief if a hurricane strikes the region.

It is also carrying a US Coast Guard team for anti-drug smuggling operations aimed at restricting the flow of cocaine out of Central America.

Commander Mark Newland, the ship's commanding officer, said: "This is a fantastic start to HMS Iron Duke's north Atlantic deployment.

"To have had a direct impact on the flow of cocaine into Europe just four days after we arrived in theatre shows the benefit the Royal Navy can have in the area of maritime security and counter-drug operations.

"From the first moment the Lynx Helicopter discovered the suspect vessel, my ship's company, working hand in glove with our US Coast Guard colleagues, turned this opportunity into a certainty and ultimately a successful seizure.

"I am immensely proud of all their efforts."

The operation involved all the members of the ship's company, and was co-ordinated by worldwide law enforcement agencies, including the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the British-led Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre in Lisbon.