18 tons of cocaine were seized a couple weeks ago aboard a container ship docked in Philadelphia port, with ship logs showing port calls in the Bahamas, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Panama, according to a ship tracker website.
Gayane is touted as the 2nd largest container ship in the world, sails under Liberian flag and is operated by MSC, Mediterranean Shipping Company, based in Switzerland.
Report by BusinessInsider.com states: CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agency took custody of the ship July 4, a Monday statement revealed. Exact ownership of the vessel is hard to determine but it appears it was held by clients in what’s known as “maritime strategy” that was executed by JPMorgan Asset Management, said a source close to the investigation. The operator is quite clear – Swiss MSC.
CBP agents retrieved 39,525 pounds of cocaine on June 18 from stashes distributed across several containers on MSC Gayane as it was docked in Philadelphia. Initial street value estimates of so much cocaine go up to $1.3bn, making it the biggest drug bust in agency’s history.
US Attorney William McSwain announced the agency will attempt to seize control of the entire vessel but it won’t be easy. “A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented,” said McSwain. “We found nearly 20 tons of cocaine hidden on this ship.”
At least 6 crew members have been put into custody, according to domestic agencies, with the investigation rolling on. One of the charges is a conspiracy to haul cocaine on a maritime vessel.
JPMorgan had no comment and MSC did not respond to e-mail questions.
New York (CNN Business) US agencies have captured a container ship with almost 20 tons of cocaine stashed on board this June. Ownership arrangements are complicated but it seems JPMorgan Chase, the banking giant, owns the fund that owns the ship.
A person close to the investigation stated Wednesdaz that the ship in question, MSC Gayane, is owned by what’s known as “maritime strategy”, a joint fund by clients who invest money to purchase and repurpose ships to achieve profit. The fund was run by JPMorgan’s asset management division.
What this means is that JPMorgan technically owns the vessel but doesn’t have control over where it sails. The Liberian-flagged vessel is actually operated by MSC, Mediterranean Shipping Company, based in Switzerland. When approached for comment, the bank had none.
Initially, the narcotics were the focus as CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agency boarded MSC Gayane but now the US Attorney’s Office announced Monday that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has given a warrant July 4 to CBP, allowing the agency to seize the entire ship.
The statement quotes US Attorney William McSwain as saying, “A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented — but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented.”
“When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters,” added McSwain, “my Office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district and our country.”
MSC Gayane was found to be holding 20 tons of cocaine, leading to ship’s seizure by Customs and Border Protection agency. The operator company, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), issued a statement June 18, saying that, “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."
MSC issued an update Tuesday, reiterating its dedication to helping law enforcement agencies and stating that MSC itself isn’t being investigated, adding that “MSC continues to comply with all the requirements of the C-TPAT programme and security criteria for ocean carriers”.
Casey Durst, CBP’s Baltimore Director of Field Operations, said that, “Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crew members and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States.”
MSC issued a statement noting that the ship was headed for northern EU at the time of seizure and that all other cargo containers have been released and loaded onto other MSC properties to be sent along to their end ports.