More than 16.5 tons of cocaine were seized from a ship at a Philadelphia port on Tuesday in what some officials say was among the nation's largest drug busts. The drugs have a street value of more than $1 billion. The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier this year, $77 million in cocaine was seized in Newark when investigators cracked open a shipping container.
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An affidavit alleged that crew members helped load the cocaine onto the MSC Gayane while it was at sea off the west coast of South America.
The shipping company MSC has been made aware of the find, saying "it takes this matter very seriously" and looks forward to cooperating with the U.S. authorities. Arrest records obtained by the Inquirer identify the crew members as Ivan Durasevic and Fonofaavae Tiasaga, who admitted to smuggling the drugs.
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An online court docket did not list attorneys for the defendants.
According to ABC News, this is the biggest cocaine bust to ever take place in the city. Authorities also in March seized 1,185 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $38 million from a shipping container at the Port of Philadelphia. The Associated Press reports the ship sailed under the Liberian flag. According to VesselFinder.com, in the past month, the ship has docked in Freeport, Bahamas; Cristobal, Panama; Callao, Peru; and Buenoventura, Colomia.
Shown is the MSC Gayane container ship on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday. At that price, sold by the kilo, the drugs would be worth more than $419 million. A 1989 bust in downtown Los Angeles netted nearly 43,000 pounds (19,504 kilograms) of the drug.
Tuesday's seizure did not set a USA record.