3 Aug 2017

Record cocaine haul burnt in Noumea

2:42 pm on 3 August 2017
The SLN plant in Noumea.

The SLN plant in Noumea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

A record haul of cocaine seized off Tonga has been burned by authorities in New Caledonia.

A mission involving France, the US, Australia and Britain seized one point four tons of the drug in dozens of packets a week ago from a Gibraltar-flagged boat.

The yacht was intercepted by the French navy, and four crew members hailing from the Baltic were arrested and brought to the New Caledonian capital Noumea.

The cocaine, which is presumed to have been destined for the Australian market, was destroyed under tight security on Tuesday night in the furnaces of Noumea's SLN nickel factory.

An SLN spokesperson told AFP it was a normal procedure and the firm had in the past been asked to destroy weapons, coins and cannabis.

The crew's suspicious behaviour prompted an investigation which began at the end of last month.

They had sailed non-stop from the Panama Canal and wanted to go directly to Australia, despite damage to the boat.

The cargo and four members of the crew of Lithuanian and Latvian nationality arrived on Tuesday night in Noumea aboard the Navy's Vendémiaire frigate.

French Navy vessel Le Vendémiaire

French Navy vessel Le Vendémiaire Photo: AFP