U.S. NEWS

Container Ship Seized After Record $1.3 Billion Cocaine Bust: CBP

More than 35,000 pounds of cocaine was found during a raid of the MSC Gayane in Philadelphia, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors seized a container ship that had carried 35,000 pounds of cocaine into U.S. waters. The drugs, which were confiscated during a raid of the ship last month, are valued at around $1.3 billion.

The MSC Gayane was seized on July 4 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection obtained a search warrant for the massive vessel, which is roughly the length of three football fields, federal authorities said Monday.

“This is momentous work by the CBP team at the Port of Philadelphia,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore. “Their vigilance and inspectional scrutiny resulted in the interception of the largest seizure of cocaine in the 230-year history of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” 

The MSC Gayane is moored at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia on June 24 after federal prosecutors say $1.3 billion
The MSC Gayane is moored at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia on June 24 after federal prosecutors say $1.3 billion worth of cocaine was found onboard.

The search warrant was issued after authorities reported “anomalies” in their examinations of seven of the vessel’s shipping containers on June 17. In addition to discovering cocaine, authorities said they found $56,330, believed to be proceeds from illegal activity.

“I have no doubt that our officers saved lives and significantly impacted transnational criminal organizations with this interception,” said Durst.

The MSC Gayane is owned by JPMorgan Asset Management and operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), a global shipping company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan’s Asset Management division declined to comment to HuffPost on Wednesday. A representative for MSC did not respond to a request for comment, though in a statement released last month the company said it takes these matters “very seriously.”

“Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems,” the statement said. “MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking.”

The MSC Gayane made port calls to Chile, Peru, Panama and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia, the CBP said.

An officer stands guard over some of the cocaine seized from a ship at the Port of Philadelphia.
An officer stands guard over some of the cocaine seized from a ship at the Port of Philadelphia.

Eight crew members from Serbia and Samoa have been arrested and several others have been charged in the case, the Wall Street Journal reported. The ship’s second officer and another crew member were among those reportedly charged with helping bring the cocaine aboard.

This is at least the third drug bust involving a ship operated by MSC this year.

In February, roughly 3,200 pounds of cocaine was found aboard the MSC Carlotta in Newark, New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

Then in March, authorities found 1,183 pounds of cocaine on the container ship MSC Desiree, which was anchored in Philadelphia while traveling from Colombia to Europe, NBC Philadelphia reported.

The Journal reported that MSC’s Customs-Trade Partnership certification has been suspended in the wake of the drug raids, meaning its cargo will be subject to more scrutiny and the liner will no longer be regarded as “low risk.”

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