$500 Million in Cocaine Intercepted on Way to US in Speedboats

Friday, 31 May 2013 11:27 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Federal law enforcement officials put a dent in the cocaine market over the Memorial Day weekend, leading to drug seizures believed to be worth more than half a billion dollars.

U.S. Customer and Border Protection in Jacksonville said Wednesday they helped stop two speedboats in separate operations, sinking one.

Authorities spotted a 30-foot speedboat by air in the Eastern Pacific north of the Galapagos Islands on May 24. The boat's crew began dumping packages of cocaine over the side when spotted, the officers said in news release. After discarding multiple packages the suspects stopped and began washing the boat to eliminate traces of cocaine.

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Law enforcement fired shots to disable the speedboat and arrested three suspects. Authorities said they seized $82 million in cocaine.

The following day, federal officers in the western Caribbean spotted a three-engine speedboat moving at high speed near the Panamanian and Colombian border. The boat attempted to evade authorities before the unit notified Panamanian authorities.

Panamanian law enforcement made the stop, seizing more than 100 packages of cocaine weighing more than 6,000 pounds. The estimated value of this seizure was $445 million.

“Our P-3 crews are actively supporting Joint Interagency Task Force-South and partner nations to disrupt the transport of narcotics to the U.S.,” said Doug Garner, Custom and Border Patrol director of National Air Security Operations in Jacksonville. “These two disruptions are an example of the international cooperative law enforcement effort to disrupt transnational criminal activity and deny their profiting from such activity.”

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During fiscal year 2012, the CBP P-3 fleet continued its anti-smuggling success by seizing or disrupting more than 117,765 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $8.8 billion, totaling 21.1 pounds seized for every flight hour, valued at $1.5 million for every hour flown.

The Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine crews, called P-3s, patrol a 42 million-square-mile swath of the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific in search of drugs destined for U.S. shores. In fiscal 2012, P-3 crews seized almost 59 tons of cocaine valued at $8.8 billion.

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