In one of the largest drug busts in United States history, authorities in Philadelphia seized 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of cocaine from a ship at the Packer Marine Terminal on Tuesday, June 18th. According to Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Philadelphia, the seized drugs found aboard the MSC Gayane could be worth $525 million to $1 billion on the street.
Authorities say that one of the crew members stated in an interview that fourteen boats approached the MSC Gayane on two occasions on its voyage towards Philadelphia. These boats carried bales of cocaine which crew members of the MSC Gayane allegedly transferred onto their ship while still at sea.
The MSC Gayane reportedly sails under the flag of Liberia and stopped in the Bahamas on June 13th, Panama on June 9th, Peru on May 24th, and the largest cocaine supplier to the United States, Columbia, on May 19th. The owner of the vessel, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. has stated that it is aware of the incident and it “takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services.”
While this drug bust is not the largest in U.S. history (43,000 pounds of cocaine were seized in downtown Los Angeles in 1989) it is the newest in a string of large cocaine busts along the eastern seaboard. 1,185 pounds were found in Philadelphia in March by drug dogs, while 3,200 pounds were found by customs agents at the port of New York and New Jersey in February.
Two members of the crew, Ivan Durasevic, the ship’s second mate, and Fonofaavae Tiasage, another crew member, were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship. These men face federal charges, but it is not yet clear whether or not other members of the crew will face any charges.
SIGNING OFF – MIKE MARQUEZ