20 tons of cocaine seized by US Coast Guard
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has seized 20 tons or nearly 40,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value of over US$500 million in what authorities call one of the largest cocaine busts in history.
In the first bust on February 19, "the Ecuadorian-flagged fishing vessel Don Juan K was approached in the Pacific Ocean February 19 off the coast of Mexico while allegedly offloading cocaine into "go-fast" (cigarette-style boat) boats. The fishing vessel's crew apparently set fire to Don Juan K in an attempt to destroy the evidence and flee in the go-fasts. The USCGC Sherman stopped the go-fasts and recovered about 900 pounds of cocaine as Don Juan K sank. The 14 crew members are being processed for further legal action," said a statement on the USCG's website.
The second bust on March 18 yielded nearly 40,000 pounds of cocaine.
"The 330-foot Panamanian-flagged motor vessel Gatun was interdicted in the Pacific Ocean Mar. 18 off the coast of Panama while heading north toward the United States. Sherman's crew stopped and boarded the vessel and found 765 bales of cocaine weighing approximately 38,000 pounds in two shipping containers. Gatun was escorted back to Panama and its 14 crew members processed for further legal action," added the statement.
In the third bust on March 25, at least 2,000 pounds of cocaine was seized, also from a ship off Panama's coast.
"[The] Sherman's crew stopped and boarded a small stateless go-fast in the Pacific Ocean Mar. 25 off the coast of Panama following a short chase, in which, the go-fast attempted to flee at a high rate of speed. Approximately 2,000 pounds of cocaine was found aboard the go-fast and its four crew members were processed for further legal action," said the statement.
Several agencies both in the U.S. and in other countries in Central and South America and will continue to investigate the extent of the drug ring.
"The Coast Guard works in close coordination with Joint Interagency Task Force South, U.S. Attorney's office, Panama Express South, DEA, FBI, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security on counter drug operations in the Pacific Ocean near Central and South America. These drug smuggling routes are some of the most active, yielding roughly 70 percent of the cocaine seized annually by the Coast Guard," added the statement.