Cargo ship involved in $1.3B cocaine bust in Philly owned by JPMorgan Chase

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Thursday, July 11, 2019
Cargo ship owned by JPMorgan Chase seized by US with 20 tons of cocaine
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The cocaine is said to have a street value of about $1.3 billion.

The cargo ship that was found to be carrying nearly 20 tons of cocaine when the vessel arrived in Philadelphia last month was owned by a fund run by banking giant JP Morgan Chase, a source tells CNN.

Officials said the bank company does not have any operational control of the vessel, which is run by Swiss firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co.

The bank has not commented on the situation.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney William McSwain said Customs and Border Protection officials obtained a warrant last Thursday and seized the MSC Gayane.

Law enforcement agents boarded the ship back on June 17 and found the cocaine which is said to have a street value of $1.3 billion.

"Laid end-to-end, all the bricks would cover a distance of about 2.5 miles," said Casey Durst, Director of Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The ship's course started in Chile then stopped in Peru and the Bahamas before making its way to Philadelphia. The US Attorney's Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania said the ship was then headed to Europe with a stop in Rotterdam.

The intended destination for the cocaine shipment is unclear.

At least six crew members have been charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship. The federal investigation continues.

The bust was the largest cocaine seizure in U.S. Customs and Border Protection's 230-year history.

It comes amid a series of large seizures of the drug in the Northeast, including a seizure back in May of roughly 450 kilos of cocaine at the Port of Philadelphia.

Another bust at the Port of Philadelphia in March netted a total of 450 bricks of cocaine, weighing 1,185 pounds with a street value of $38 million. At the time, law enforcement officials said it was their biggest cocaine bust at the Port of Philadelphia in 21 years.

New York saw its largest cocaine bust in a quarter century in March as well with $77 million worth of the drug seized from a cargo ship in the port of New York and New Jersey.

Traffickers have been seeking out a new market for cocaine by mixing it with the powerful drug fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl have been responsible for thousands of overdose deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Cocaine, New York's nemesis of the 90s, is back-indicating traffickers push to build an emerging customer base of users mixing cocaine with fentanyl," DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said at the time of the New York seizure. "This record-breaking seizure draws attention to this new threat and shows law enforcement's collaborative efforts in seizing illicit drugs before it gets to the streets and into users' hands."

In July of 2018, routine examinations at the Port of Philadelphia led to a big fentanyl bust. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 110 pounds of the deadly opioid, with a street value estimated at $1.7 million.


Information from ABC News was used in this story.