The United States Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies completed an interagency drug bust on Monday and confiscated more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated street value of at least $1 billion. The drugs were hidden in a cargo ship that was docked in Philadelphia.
According to a CBS local affiliate, "two people were arrested and federally charged. According to the criminal complaint, Ivan Durasevic, the ship’s second mate, and Fonofaavae Tiasaga were arrested in the bust."
The ship, which authorities say likely has even more narcotics on it, traveled from the Bahamas, Panama, Peru, and Colombia towards America. It was supposed to continue on its way to the Netherlands but ICE and Border Patrol, in cooperation with the Philadelphia Police and United States Coast Guard, stopped the massive drug haul before it could depart.
"A U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations-led multi-agency inspection of shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane resulted in a substantial cocaine seizure in Philadelphia on June 17, 2019. Authorities continue to process the seized cocaine and continue its inspection aboard the vessel in the Port of Philadelphia. Authorities have made two arrests, and will release a final tally and additional details when this operation concludes,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
Durasevic told authorities that "the cocaine was loaded onto the ship after leaving Peru. Tiasaga told authorities that six boats approached the MSC Gayane during the night, while Durasevic operated a crane to bring bags of cocaine onboard." Then, later in the journey, eight other ships approached the boat where the process was repeated.
US Attorney Michael William McSwain praised the agencies for the historic drug bust via Twitter.
"This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history. This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people," McSwain tweeted.
This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history. This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people. My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics. https://t.co/nWPfgpGqYa— US Attorney William M. McSwain (@USAttyMcSwain) June 18, 2019
The Mediterranean Shipping Company which owns the vessel issued a statement, saying, “Mediterranean Shipping Company is aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo. MSC takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its services."
“Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems. MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)," the company continued.