Several thousand traders on Wall Street may be extra jittery tomorrow when the FOMC announcement hits at 2:00pm. The reason: shipping containers full of illegal drugs - mostly blow - were found and seized at a Philadelphia port in what authorities described as the largest seizure in the region's history. Back in March we reported by what at a time seemed like a giant haul when a ton and a half of cocaine seized at the port of New York and New Kersey, in what was described as the biggest bust of the century; in retrospect it was peanuts - the Philly seizure was about ten times greater.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain said the ship contained enough cocaine to "kill millions of people"... but not before giving them a good old time, and making trading tomorrow's FOMC decision far easier.
A law enforcement official told NBC Philadelphia that more than 15,500 kilos of cocaine were found in seven containers, which were found aboard a cargo ship, the MSC Gayane, that previously stopped in Colombia, Chile, Panama and the Bahama, in other words virtually every known country exporting blow so finding the culprit may be tricky.
The massive cache of drugs, which will send Wall Street blow prices through the roof, has a street value of $1 billion, the U.S. Attorney's Office also tweeted. The office characterized the seizure as the largest in the Philadelphia region's history.
*BREAKING NEWS* Federal authorities have seized approximately 16.5 TONS of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia. This is the largest drug seizure in the history of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. @ICEgov @CBPMidAtlantic @PhillyPolice @USCG— U.S. Attorney EDPA (@USAO_EDPA) June 18, 2019
At least two crew members of the Gayane have been charged with trafficking, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Other crew members were also allegedly involved, the complaint charges. Those arrested were charged with federal drug trafficking charges, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania said; they allegedly pulled the drugs aboard while at sea, the complaint said.
NBC10 reported that the bust occurred at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal Port on the Delaware River in South Philadelphia. After a stop in Philadelphia, the ship was scheduled to stop at ports of call in Europe, including in France and The Netherlands.
Some more details: the Gayane was built in 2018 and flies a flag of the African country of Liberia, according to shipping records. It moored in Philadelphia at 5 a.m., Monday, the records show. The records show that the Gayane's previous stops included Freeport, the Bahamas on June 13, Cristobal, Panama on June 9, Cristobal, Panama, on May 24 and Buenaventura, Colombia, on May 19.
In a statement posted to its website Tuesday afternoon, MSC - which is short for Mediterrean Shipping Company, with headquarters in Europe and U.S. operations based in several American cities - said the 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," the statement said.
Officials with Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration are involved in the investigation, which one official described as "massive."
The ship's second mate, identified as Ivan Durasevic, allegedly admitted to "his role in bringing the cocaine onboard the vessel," the federal complaint said. He is probably facing several consecutive life sentences. Upon leaving Peru on this current voyage, he got a call from the Chief Officer to come down to the deck, at which time he saw nets on the port side stern by the ship's crane," the complaint said. "Durasevic and approximately four other individuals, some of whom were wearing ski masks, assisted in the pushing of the nets toward Hold Seven or Eight of the vessel."
He said, according to the complaint, that he was paid $50,000 by the chief officer, who has not been identified.
Another crew member, identified as Fonofaavae Tiasaga, also allegedly admitted to partaking in loading cocaine on the ship, including on a previous voyage, the complaint said.
"Prior to departing on the voyage, the ship's Electrician and the Chief Mate also approach Tiasaga and asked if he was willing to help again," the complaint states. "According to Tiasaga, each of these four crewmembers coordinated individual loads of cocaine."
At least twice while the ship was en route between stops in Chile and Panama, numerous smaller boats approached the Gayane at sea to hand off large bundles of cocaine, the complaint said according to NBC10.
None of the crew other than Durasevic and Tiasaga have been identified; although a "Keyser Soze" is not expected to be on the manifest.