Tonne of heroin seized in French-Seychellois joint operation
The presence of the vessel had been confirmed by a Seychelles Dornier flight. (Seychelles Defence Forces)
The Seychelles Defence Forces have confirmed that around 1 tonne of heroin has been seized onboard a vessel in the Indian Ocean through a joint regional operation.
Lieutenant Colonel Achille Mondon, the public relations officer of the Special Forces Unit, told SNA on Friday that "the target vessel was spotted in the west of Mahe, outside of our Exclusive Economic Zone, during a routine surveillance mission by the Seychelles Air Force."
According to the principal news agency of Reunion, IMAZ Press, "on Thursday 9 March 2023, at daybreak, the overseas support and assistance vessel "Champlain" carried out an inspection of a dhow, the "Al Balal", on the high seas. This vessel had been monitored for several days. Its presence had been confirmed by a Seychelles Dornier flight. A record 1069 kilos of heroin were seized."
Mondon confirmed that a Seychelles Dornier spotted the vessel and "the information was then relayed to the French Navy ship which was in the vicinity."
IMAZ Press Reunion stated that in accordance with international law, a visit was carried out under the authority of the Prefect of Reunion, the government's delegate for state action at sea in close liaison with the judicial authority.
"The investigations carried out with the help of a dog team led to the discovery of 25 suspect bales. The tests carried out by the team visiting the "Champlain" confirmed that they contained 1069 kilos of heroin, which were immediately seized," it added further.
Mondon said that "the SDF also has one of its officers from the Seychelles Coast Guard on board of the French vessel as part of our ongoing bilateral corporation. He was also involved in the boarding operation."
The French Armed Forces in the Southern Indian Ocean Zone (FAZSOI), which are a permanent military presence based in Reunion and Mayotte, regularly hold such operations to combat drug trafficking in the area.
The French authorities said that with more than a tonne of heroin seized and destined for destruction, the operation is a very significant blow to the criminal networks.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the Western Indian Ocean, has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million square kilometres which makes surveillance of illegal maritime activities a challenge.
The island nation has stepped up efforts to combat illicit drug trafficking and illegal fishing in its waters. Part of the measures is that SDF assets are continuously involved in regional operations with partner countries and organisations.