A ship docked in Philadelphia was busted with more than $1 billion worth of cocaine days after it left Freeport, Grand Bahama, according to authorities.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the bust on Twitter yesterday afternoon.
“Federal authorities have seized approximately 16.5 tons of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said.
“This is the largest drug seizure in the history of the eastern district of Pennsylvania.”
The drugs were reportedly found concealed in seven shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane.
When federal agents opened the containers they saw the drugs in bags.
Records show that the ship’s last stop was in Freeport on June 13.
According to court documents, the ship arrived in Philadelphia on Monday morning from Freeport laden with commercial cargo, destined for the United States and elsewhere, as the next port of call for the vessel was Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Its previous stops also include Cristobal, Panama, on June 9; Callao, Peru, on June 6; San Antonio, Puerto Rico, on May 27; and Buenaventura, Colombia, on May 19.
While noting that he was unaware of the drug bust, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the government of The Bahamas intends to gather all of the facts related to the matter.
The ship’s crew has been arrested and federally charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
According to court papers, one crew member told federal agents that upon leaving Peru on this current voyage, he got a call to come down to the deck, at which time he saw nets on the port side stern by the ship’s crane.
That crew member, and approximately four other individuals, some of whom were wearing ski masks, assisted in the pushing of the nets on the vessel.
The nets contained blue or black bags with handles.
Two or three other crew members assisted in loading the cocaine into containers, the documents stated.
The whole process took approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
The crew member reportedly stated that he knew the bags contained drugs, but he was unaware of what type. He stated he was paid approximately $50,000.
Another crew member told agents that as the vessel proceeded southbound between Panama and Coronel, the vessel was approached by six separate boats during the night.
One crew member operated the crane to bring on numerous bales of cocaine that were wrapped in netting.
Subsequently, as the vessel proceeded northbound between Coronel, Peru and Panama, the MSC Gayane was approached by eight boats, at which time additional cocaine was loaded onto the vessel.
All of the drugs, including what had previously been loaded onto the vessel, were taken below deck and concealed within containers.
U.S. States Attorney William M. McSwain tweeted, “This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history. This amount of cocaine could kill millions, millions of people.”
MSC said it was taking the matter “seriously”.
“MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company is aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo,” the company said.
“MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services. Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems.”
The shipping company noted that it has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies “to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection”.
It said it is committed to working with authorities to improve “the security of the international supply chain and ensure that illegal practices are dealt with promptly and thoroughly by the relevant authorities”.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, The Bahamas remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the U.S. and other countries.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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