Crackdown On Smuggling and Immigration Off Welsh Coast

Crackdown on smuggling and immigration off Welsh coast

March 17, 2010

A crackdown on organised crime, drug smuggling, illegal immigration and people smuggling on the Welsh coast is being launched.

Coast Watch Wales brings together law enforcement bodies responsible for Wales' 750 miles of coastline.

These include police, coastguards and UK Border Agency officers.

Described as a “maritime Neighbourhood Watch”, a single contact point will let boat users and coastal communities make tip-offs about suspicious activity.

With the help of the public, a dedicated team will look to identify vessels and individuals engaged in criminal activity, disrupt their operations and prosecute those involved.

Officers will assess and investigate intelligence provided via the Coast Watch Wales website and e-mail set up for people to pass on information, 24 hours a day.

The public can also phone the Crime Stoppers helpline, which is 0800 555 111, to leave information but are reminded to call 999 for emergencies.

Posters are being placed at key locations from marinas to seaside pubs.

Andy Edwards, deputy chief constable at Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “This is a significant first for Wales showing how everyone concerned with our coastline and the maritime community can work together to safeguard our national borders.”

Examples of suspicious behaviour
UK Border Agency cutter
Night-time signalling between vessels at sea and people on the shore
Large vessels being approached by smaller craft
Items or people being landed in remote coastal areas
Vessels leaving or arriving at marinas and harbours at irregular times
Light aircraft landing on remote beaches and coastal areas
Items being attached to marker buoys
Large numbers of passengers embarking or disembarking vessels
Source: Coast Watch Wales

Marc Owen, UK Border Force Director for Wales, said they wanted to create a maritime version of Neighbourhood Watch.

“We're asking maritime communities to help us protect the Welsh coastline by making it simpler to report suspicious activity.

“The UK Border Agency works 365 days a year to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling at the Welsh coast – which forms a large part of the UK's border.”

Recent high profile cases of illegal activity off the Welsh coast include Operation Panama Canal which investigated organised crime.

Centred on a business premises at Barry Docks it resulted with the arrest and prosecution of more than 20 people from the UK, Spain, France and Jamaica.

Bales of cocaine

About 400 kilos of cannabis, more than 60 kilos of Class A drugs, 10 kilos of other Class B drugs, two handguns and ammunition were recovered along with a large amount of cash.

The criminal gang had spent months visiting remote beaches and marinas in south and west Wales to conduct reconnaissance and had planned to transport drugs from Jamaica on board a yacht.

In 2008, bales of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than 2m washed up on beaches in north and west Wales.

All were found and reported by the public.

The same year police and UK Border agency officers intercepted a vessel docking at Port Talbot and two Venezuelan men were stopped as they left the ship.

Cocaine with an estimated street value of 500,000 was recovered. One of the men was jailed for 16 years at Swansea Crown Court.