20 tons of cocaine worth $1.3 billion seized in cargo ship owned by JP Morgan in Philadelphia

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Video screenshot from 6ABC

A cargo vessel carrying 20 tons of cocaine on board worth US$ 1.3 billion was seized by the US authorities in Philadelphia and it turns out that the ship is owned by a fund run by banking giant JPMorgan Chase.

The ship, MSC Gayane which is valued at US$ 90 million is part of the transportation strategy fund run for JP Morgan’s asset management unit.

It is understood that JP Morgan has no operational control of the vessel and the Liberian-flagged ship is chartered to the Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company.

On June 17, law enforcement agents boarded the cargo vessel and discovered the US$1.3 billion worth of cocaine on board.

The drugs were later seized by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.

However,  the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced on Monday that a warrant has been issued on July 4 which allowed CBP to take custody of the ship.

“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented—but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented,” said US Attorney William McSwain in a statement Monday.

“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,” McSwain added.

In their statement dated June 18, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said that “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.”

Casey Durst, the CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore said that it is unusual for CBP to seize a vessel of such size. “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.”

At least six crew members from Serbia and Samoa have been charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine found on the ship. 

All other cargoes aside from the containers that have been seized by the US authorities have been sent to their destinations on other MSC vessels.

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