PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Area Port of Philadelphia seized the MSC Gayane Thursday following a record seizure of 20 tons of cocaine on June 17.
Upon application from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a seizure warrant for the vessel.
On Thursday, July 4, CBP executed the warrant and seized the MSC Gayane. CBP has various seizure and forfeiture authorities under Title 19 of the United States Code (USC).
“The MSC Gayane is the largest vessel seized in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history and follows the record seizure of almost 20-tons of cocaine discovered on the vessel,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore. “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 crewmembers and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States. This action serves as a reminder for all shipping lines and vessel masters of their responsibilities under U.S. and international law to implement and enforce stringent security measures to prevent smuggling attempts such as this.”
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented. We found nearly 20 tons of cocaine hidden on this ship,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, 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.”
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“The seizure of the MSC Gayane is another significant step toward holding accountable those who perpetuate drug smuggling crimes both here in Philadelphia and around the world,” said Marlon Miller, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia. “HSI, in collaboration with CBP, the Coast Guard, and our state and local law enforcement partners continue to aggressively work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to comprehensively investigate this case and bring to justice those who had roles in this drug smuggling venture.”
On June 17, the CBP and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led multi-agency team detected anomalies in seven shipping containers and extracted 39,525 pounds of cocaine. The cocaine has a street value of about $1.3 billion.
CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.