PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Federal authorities have seized the cargo ship involved in the $1 billion cocaine bust at a Philadelphia port in June. U.S. Customs and Border Protection executed the warrant, requested from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and seized the MSC Gayane on July 4.
“The MSC Gayane is the largest vessel seized in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history and follows the record seizure of almost 20 tons of cocaine discovered on the vessel,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore. “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 the U.S. and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this.”
CBP and Homeland Security led a multi-agency investigation and seized 39,525 pounds of cocaine from seven shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane.
The cocaine has a street value of about $1.3 billion.
It was one of the largest cocaine busts in United States history.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented. We found nearly 20 tons of cocaine hidden on this ship,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “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.”
CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illegal narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.
The CBP seizes about 4,657 pounds of narcotics every day across the United States.