Three British men have been arrested in the mid-Atlantic by Spanish police and Customs agents after a ton of cocaine worth more than £80million was discovered on a yacht sailing from the Caribbean to Europe.
Spanish officials say the detentions mean they have now smashed an international drugs smuggling ring allegedly led by a former Royal Navy officer.
Robert Mark Benson, 64, was one of 10 people arrested last month during raids in the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz and Spain‘s North African enclave of Ceuta after twin seizures of boats carrying 1.5 tonnes of hashish.
Spanish police had previously described Benson as someone with ‘strong links with other criminal organisations in countries like the UK and Ukraine‘, although like their British counterparts they have not officially named him.
Three British men were arrested in the mid-Atlantic by Spanish police after a ton of cocaine was discovered on a yacht sailing from the Caribbean to Europe
The cocaine had an estimated street value of more than £80million and police believe the drugs were destined for the streets of the UK
Britain’s National Crime Agency, also involved in the investigation which culminated in the new detentions, said: ‘The arrests are linked to an ongoing investigation into international drug trafficking that has so far resulted in the arrest of a number of individuals in Spain, and the seizure of 1.6 tonnes of hashish, more than £38,000 and four sailing vessels.
‘The British head of the Organised Crime Group – a former Royal Navy officer living in Southern Spain – was among those previously arrested.
‘Known to law enforcement agencies for his links to organised crime groups in the UK and Ukraine, officers believe he trained the crew and ran several companies engaged in buying, selling and renting sailing vessels that were subsequently used to conduct drugs transportations.’
A spokesman for Spain’s National Police said of the latest operation, believed to have been carried out on June 13 but only revealed this week, said: ‘National Police officers in a joint operation with Tax Agency officials boarded a yacht called SY Windwhisper with nearly a tonne of cocaine from the Caribbean and arrested the three crew members.
‘At the same time four people were arrested in the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz.
‘They were linked to the same criminal drugs trafficking organisation which investigators consider has now been dismantled.’
The spokesman added: ‘The investigation focused from the beginning on a British national who is already under arrest, an ex Royal Navy officer with extensive nautical knowledge.
‘This man ran several companies involved in the buying and selling of boats he allegedly used to acquire the means of transport for the smuggled drugs.
‘He also allegedly facilitated the creation of front companies to launder drugs money.’
Two of the four people arrested after the Atlantic Ocean bust are believed to be British. None of the Brits held in the latest operation have been named.
Dave Hucker, Head of European Operations for NCA International said: ‘This is a huge haul of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £80million. I have no doubt the drugs on board were destined for the streets of the UK, so this seizure is a significant result.
‘We know that the criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain, and the loss of the profit that would have been made from these drugs will have a major impact on the crime groups involved.
Last month Spanish police carried out raids in the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz and Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta
Officials say the detentions mean they have now smashed an international drugs smuggling ring allegedly led by a former Royal Navy officer Robert Mark Benson, 64
Spanish police and Customs agents have been carrying out raids across the country
‘We continue to work with our international law enforcement partners to identify those responsible for supplying class A drugs to the UK, and will do all we can to disrupt their supply chains.’
Benson served in the Royal Navy as an executive branch officer from 1978 to 1985 according to an online profile.
He started a new career in property in Gibraltar before settling in southern Spain.
In 2015, he set up Yacht Matters, a business that buys and sells yachts, and property firm Real Estate Matters which are both based in Marbella.
In his most recent entry on social media, Benson said he had ’28 years experience as a real estate advisor in Sotogrande’ and offered to introduce buyers to ‘my small piece of paradise.’
‘My activities have ranged from simply helping buyers choose their dream property, to project managing the design and construction of clients’ luxury private villas,’ he wrote.
Spanish press which have picked up on the story have branded him the ‘English dandy.’
He is currently being held in prison on remand pending an ongoing criminal probe which is expected to last at least several months.
In Spain suspects are normally only formally charged shortly before trial.