Canadian naval drug bust worth $150M happened 'peacefully'

A Canadian navy crew is all smiles after making one of the largest heroin seizures ever on the high seas Friday, when it intercepted a boat transporting between $150-million and $250-million worth of drugs on the Indian Ocean.
Around 500 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of between $150 million to $250 million, were seized from a boat in the Indian Ocean. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A Canadian navy crew was all smiles after making one of the largest heroin seizures ever on the high seas Friday, when it intercepted a boat transporting between $150-million and $250-million worth of drugs on the Indian Ocean.

The Department of National Defence said HMCS Toronto seized about 500 kilograms of heroin from the boat on Friday. The exact location of the incident was undisclosed, because it's part of a Canadian Forces counter-terrorism operation.

The commanding officer of HMCS Toronto told CBC News on Monday that the drug bust unfolded peacefully, as a team boarded the small vessel in an "aggressive and safe" manner.

Five hundred kilograms of heroin were seized from a fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean. (Cpl. Malcolm Byers/HMCS Toronto/DND/Associated Press)

"You could see a lot smiles on the faces of the crew here on board Toronto as a lot of their hard work and years of training paid off," said Cmdr. David Patchell, adding that the drugs would have eventually made it to the streets of Canada.

The discovery began late Thursday night when a naval helicopter — codenamed Raptor, after Toronto's basketball team —  spotted the small fishing boat in the water and began tracking it. Patchell told CBC News that fishing vessels called dhows are often used in that region of the world to carry drugs.

A team boarded the vessel Friday morning and began to search.

"Very early on in the boarding, we got the reports back that they found one or two suspicious packages," Patchell said. "Didn't take too long before three packages turned into 500 packages of heroin."

Patchell says the drugs have a street value of between $150 million and $250 million, which would have likely supported transnational terrorism organizations.

"I had some intelligence that indicated some of these vessels we've been tracking may be carrying narcotics, but certainly nothing of this size was expected," Patchell said.

HMCS Toronto is deployed on Operation Artemis, as part of Combined Task Force 150, a 27-country coalition task force to fight terrorism in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Other navies involved include those from the U.K., the U.S. and Australia.

Canada's naval ships have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.