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Boat found with Sh27b heroin haul linked to Kenyan owners

By Benard Sanga | April 27th 2014
 An Australian Naval officer empties heroin seized from a ship off the coast of Mombasa into the sea. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

By Benard Sanga

Mombasa, Kenya: The vessel found with a large heroin haul off the Kenya Coast is one of two notorious vessels used for illegal trade along the East African Coast and is partly owned by Kenyans, The Standard on Sunday has learnt.

The two boats, according to our sources, are said to be predominantly used along the East Africa coast and have been tracked from Somalia.

It has also emerged that the Kenya Government was kept in the dark over the operation to seize the drug to limit any prospects of information leaking out.

The drugs consignment, with a street value of Sh25 billion, was seized by the Royal Australian Frigate — HMAS Darwin — and destroyed at sea.

Multiple source in the maritime sector privy to the operation say the boat carrying the heroin was being monitored by the international naval forces operating in the Indian Ocean for almost a year.

“The Australian embassy knew of the operation. In fact I’m aware that their liaison officer in Mombasa was privy of the arrest but there were fears that if local security agencies were involved the information could easily leak out to the owner of the consignment,” said the source who did not want to be named.

The source said the heroin might have been loaded in Kenya given that the vessel was also carrying cement for export. “Most drug barons use sugar to hide drugs if the port of loading is Kisimayo or rice if it’s Pakistan. In Mombasa they use cement.”

Second vessel

The Australian Department of Defence said the vessel was seized by the Australian Navy 27 nautical miles off Mombasa but our sources say that the exact point of arrest was less than 30 nautical miles off Malindi or Lamu. However, his claims could not be independently confirmed.

“The vessel was between Somali and Kenyan waters and the plan was load the consignment into the second vessel that was stationed at the same point,” said the source.

Reports indicate that although Kenyan authorities are adamant that the heroin was seized out of the country’s territorial waters, maritime sources indicate in unconfirmed reports that the seizure was actually inside the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is 200 nautical miles long.

Kenyan police patrol up to 12 nautical mile into the Indian Ocean but Kenya Navy is required to operate the remaining part of the 200 nautical miles. The navy is, however, largely handicapped as it cannot make arrest if there is no police officer on board.

Saturday, The Standard on Sunday also learnt that the Australian Naval force reported the seizure to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai, which acts as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels and liaison with military forces in the region.

All warships operating under what is called Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), CTF155 and CTF156 in the Indian Ocean reportedly report to the UKMTO and Atlanta.

On Friday, the Australian Embassy in Nairobi said they could not provide any information about the seizure until next week.

“We don’t have that information, and as it is a public holiday in Australia today we will not have any further information until next week,” Simon Anderson from the Australian Embassy said when asked if the seizure had a Kenyan link.

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