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Canadian warship intercepts boat carrying $50M worth of cocaine off Mexico

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A Canadian warship has returned home to British Columbia after intercepting nearly $50 million worth of cocaine off the coast of Mexico as part of an international counter-narcotics operation.

The coastal defence vessel HMCS Edmonton and its crew of approximately 40 sailors arrived back at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Friday following a 10-week deployment to the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The deployment was part of Operation Caribbe, a longstanding Canadian commitment to U.S.-led anti-drug trafficking operations in the eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea.

The coastal defence ship, alongside a pair of U.S. Coast Guard cutters and an American helicopter, intercepted a suspected drug-smuggling vessel off Mexico on April 8.

The Department of National Defence says seven people were arrested and are now in U.S. custody after the boat was found to be carrying 755 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated Canadian street value of $49.5 million.

The seized boat, which the U.S. Coast Guard categorized as a "go-fast vessel" operating more than 320 kilometres off the Mexican coast, was destroyed at sea due to the threat it posed to navigation.

The commanding officer of HMCS Edmonton said he is "extremely proud" of the coordination demonstrated by the Canadian and American sailors on the task force.

A sailor from HMCS Edmonton drives Oiler, one of the ship's Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, while two members of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) conduct radio checks prior to searching for jettisoned contraband south of the Mexican coast on April 8, 2023. (Department of National Defence)

"The crew of HMCS Edmonton have worked tirelessly since Operation Caribbe commenced to enhance integration with our United States and Central American partners, which was critical to success in this fast-paced and complex interdiction," Lt.-Cmdr. Tyler Smith said in a statement Friday.

The Canadian navy estimates it has participated in the seizure of 4,591 kilograms of illicit drugs since November 2021, and more than 120 tonnes of cocaine in the past 15 years.

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