The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized MSC Gayane, a container ship carrying almost 20 tons or 39,526 pounds of cocaine. The street value of the illegal drug is approximately $1.3 billion, the largest seizure in the history of the agency.
Multi-agency team of law enforcement detected the massive amount of cocaine
Last month, a multi-agency team of law enforcement led by the CBP and Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) noticed anomalies while inspecting seven shipping containers aboard MSC Gayane at the Philadelphia seaport.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania obtained a seizure warrant, which was executed by CBP, HIS and Coast Guard officers on July 4. They found thousands of bricks of white, powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine and $56,330 on the vessel. Authorities believed the money was proceeds from illegal activities.
JPMorgan Asset Management owns MSC Gayane, which measures approximately two city blocks in length. The massive vessel is operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), which is headquartered in Geneva Switzerland.
In a statement, Casey Durst, CBP Director of Field Operations in Baltimore, said, “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crewmembers and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States.”
“This action serves as a reminder for all shipping lines and vessel masters of their responsibilities under U.S. and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this,” he added.
On the other hand, U.S. Attorney William McSwain commented, “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my Office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district – and our country.”
MSC has been helping federal authorities disrupt illegal drug trafficking
Meanwhile, MSC issued a statement last month expressing its gratitude to the authorities for “identifying any suspected abuse of services.” The company also said it is taking the illegal drug trafficking “very seriously.”
“Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. MSC 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 (CBP),” according to the company.