One of the Largest Drug Busts in U.S. History
On June 18, a team of police officers and agents from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security discovered 16.5 tons (or 33,000 pounds) of cocaine on a freighter ship docked at a port in Philadelphia. The authorities confiscated the illegal cargo, impounded the ship, and arrested several members of the crew. The supply of cocaine was worth over $1 billion. The drug bust in Philadelphia was one of the largest in U.S. history, both in terms of the size of the drug stockpile and its value.
The ship, MSC Gayane, launched its voyage from Chile and sailed to Peru, Colombia, and Panama before docking at Freeport in the Bahamas. From there the Gayane sailed to Philadelphia and would have departed for the Netherlands, its final destination, had detector dogs with the Philadelphia police not found cocaine in seven shipping containers aboard the ship. Mediterranean Shipping Company, which owns the Gayane, expressed concern that its vessel had been used to transport illegal drugs and vowed to cooperate with law enforcement.
One Gayane crew member, Ivan Durasevic, claimed that he had been promised $50,000 to help bring the drugs onboard. The police arrested Durasevic after investigators found traces of cocaine on his arm. Fonofaavae Tiasaga, another crew member whom the authorities arrested, admitted that he had partnered with Durasevic to smuggle cocaine onto the Gayane during a previous voyage.
Prosecutors charged both crew members with “conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship subject to U.S. jurisdiction.” According to the prosecutors, drug traffickers approached the Gayane on smaller boats and delivered the cocaine to the conspirators in South American waters.
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Part of a Pattern
The drug bust in Philadelphia was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a series of drug busts which have recently taken place in the northeastern region of the United States. In March, law enforcement officers confiscated about 992 pounds of cocaine from the MSC Desiree at the Port of Philadelphia. Like the Gayane, the Desiree was bound for Europe and its owner is Mediterranean Shipping Company. The cocaine supply in the March drug bust was worth about $18 million.
Later that same month, police discovered 3,200 pounds of cocaine in a shipping container at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The cocaine stash was worth about $77 million. That drug bust was the largest in New York since 1994. The cocaine, which was hidden under boxes of dried fruit, was stored a ship that was bound for Belgium.
Cocaine, New York’s nemesis of the 90s, is back – indicating traffickers’ push to build an emerging customer base of users mixing cocaine with fentanyl. This record-breaking seizure draws attention to this new threat and shows law enforcement’s collaborative efforts in seizing illicit drugs before it gets to the streets and into users’ hands.
Ever since the Colombian government relaxed its campaign to eradicate the coca plant, cocaine production has increased in Colombia, resulting in a cocaine surplus. This may explain the recent surge in cocaine trafficking and the record-breaking quantities of cocaine that U.S. authorities have been seizing. The drug bust in Philadelphia this month demonstrates that cocaine trafficking is still a vast and lucrative illegal enterprise.
Cocaine is illegal to use or possess in the United States. The drug is addictive and has the potential to kill its users by causing heart attacks. Drug traffickers reap enormous profits by getting ordinary Americans addicted to cocaine. If you or someone you know is addicted cocaine, contact a dedicated treatment professional today for information on recovery centers which can help you or your loved one live a drug-free life.