PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Additional arrests have been made in a $1 billion cocaine bust at a Philadelphia port, sources confirm to CBS3. This is on top of the two men who are already in federal custody as authorities continue to investigate how more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine ended up on a ship that docked at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia.
It’s not known yet how many more people were arrested.
Federal court records obtained by CBS3 reveal two men are charged in connection to the massive smuggling operation. They’re identified as Ivan Durasevic and Fonofaavae Tiasaga. Further information about the pair was not released.
The MSC Gayane had last been in the Bahamas and was destined for the Netherlands before federal authorities raided the boat discovering 16.5 tons of cocaine.
Court documents outline the cocaine was apparently loaded by the bale-full onto the ship, delivered to MSC Gayane by six separate boats in the middle of the night after leaving Peru. Court documents allege some of the men on those boats were wearing ski masks.
The drugs were then concealed in containers.
According to the complaint, Durasevic admitted his role to authorities in bringing cocaine onto the vessel after being offered $50,000 by the chief officer.
“According to Durasevic, upon leaving Peru on this current voyage, he got a call from the chief officer to come down to the deck, at which time he saw nets on the port side stern by the ship’s crane. Durasevic and approximately four other individuals, some of whom were wearing ski masks, assisted in the pushing of the nets towards Hold Seven or Eight of the vessel. The nets contained blue or black bags with handles. Two or three crew members assisted in loading the cocaine into containers. The whole process took approximately 30 to 40 minutes,” court documents say.
Federal authorities continue to go through containers as they believe there could be more drugs on the ship.
The bust has made international news and has drawn the attention of those who live close to the port, including people who work nearby.
“I’ve seen the ship before, it comes in frequently, at least once a month, and yesterday it was pointing the other way and was pointing back that way and yesterday I noticed they weren’t unloading it, which was odd, because if you look all the boats here are in a constant state of load or unload: they don’t hang around, they come, they work, they get out,” Mary Beth Caporelli said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney praised federal law enforcement for seizing over 16 tons of cocaine.
“I’m glad the federal government is taking this crap off the street and keeping people out of harm’s way,” Kenney said.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain more information will be provided in the coming days as the investigation unfolds.
It is unclear if either defendant has retained legal counsel and a detention hearing is expected to be held later this week.
The massive amount of cocaine has been moved to a secure federal location in the city.
This was one of the largest drugs busts in U.S. history and the largest drug seizure ever for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.