4 more crew members arrested in record-breaking cocaine seizure at Philly port | TribLIVE.com

4 more crew members arrested in record-breaking cocaine seizure at Philly port

This photo shows the MSC Gayane container ship on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. U.S. authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said agents seized about 16.5 tons of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal.

PHILADELPHIA — Four additional crew members were charged Wednesday in connection with a record-breaking 16-ton cocaine seizure aboard a cargo ship docked in the Port of Philadelphia, sources with knowledge of the investigation said.

But details surrounding the arrests, including the names of the defendants, what role they are alleged to have played in the smuggling effort and the positions they held aboard the vessel remained under court seal while the investigation continues.

The sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the arrests, said all four worked aboard the MSC Gayane, on which federal agents discovered the illicit cargo in seven shipping containers Monday. They remain in custody after making their first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia declined to comment.

The additional arrests were made a day after two other crew members — the ship’s second mate, Ivan Durasevic, and seaman Fonofaavae Tiasaga — were charged with violations of maritime drug smuggling laws.

Both men admitted to investigators that they helped haul aboard bales of cocaine from 14 smaller boats that approached the Gayane under cover of darkness at various points during journeys between Panama and the Peruvian coast in May and earlier this month. For their efforts, they said, they were promised payments of $50,000 or more.

Durasevic, a Serbian national, and Tiasaga, of Samoa, each implicated others aboard the vessel, including the Gayane’s chief officer, chief mate, an electrician, and an engineer, according to court filings that did not name those men and that have since been removed from the court’s public docket.

It was not clear whether any of those crew members were among the four charged Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain described the seizure aboard the Gayane as the largest ever in the region and one of the biggest in U.S. history. He estimated the value of the drugs at more than $1 billion.

The Gayane remained moored in Philadelphia as investigators continued to examine its cargo. The vessel is owned by Mediterranean Shipping Co., a Geneva, Switzerland-based firm with operations in several U.S. cities.

Authorities said they hope to release more information later in the week.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.