Authorities in the US have seized 16.5 tons of cocaine from an MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company container vessel at the Port of Philadelphia, according to reports.
The interdiction has been described as “one of the largest drug seizures in United States history” by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain, and federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have estimated that the street value of the cocaine could be as high as USD $1 billion.
Spread across seven containers, the drug was discovered on the MSC Gayane late on June 17, 2019, after which a second mate and crew member were arrested.
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NBC Philadelphia has revealed that the ship travelled to Chile, Panama and the Bahamas before arriving the port where the bust took place.
Ivan Durasevic, the crew's second mate, has admitted his role in bringing the cocaine onto the vessel, confessing to agents that he was paid $50,000 to help smugglers move the drug.
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Following the discovery, MSC released a statement: “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).
“MSC is committed to working with authorities and industry groups worldwide to improve the security of the international supply chain and ensure that illegal practices are dealt with promptly and thoroughly by the relevant authorities.”