Feds Bust Ship Smuggling $58M in Cocaine

Authorities stopped the Panamanian ship Megan Star in the Caribbean.

Oct. 2, 2008 — -- In another reminder of how huge the cocaine market remains, U.S. law enforcement and authorities in the Caribbean have seized $58 million worth of cocaine on the Megan Star, a ship bearing the Panamanian flag.

A team of Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Coast Guard authorities recently discovered the cocaine after the U.S. Naval Frigate USS Farragut intercepted the Megan Star near Puerto Rico.

Authorities have detained the 10-member crew of the ship, composed of nationals of Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Nicaragua and Spain. The recent cocaine bust is indicative of robust drug smuggling from South America to Africa, Europe and the United States, according to law enforcement sources.

Police officials say they have seen a surge in seaside busts in the Atlantic and Pacific as the United States has tightened its border with Mexico.

Authorities caught alleged smugglers on the fishing vessel Mar Pacifico in September 2007. Officials say they found an estimated three metric tons of cocaine that had been mixed with fuel in an effort to conceal it on the ship, which was sailing the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador

A month before, officials stopped a semisubmersible vessel they believe was carrying about five metric tons of cocaine, with an approximate street value of $353 million. Smugglers allegedly sank the sub on purpose to thwart authorities, so only 1,210 pounds were recovered.

In April 2007, officials spotted the fishing vessel Emperador in the Pacific Ocean; a search of the boat yielded almost 11,000 pounds of liquid cocaine.

One month before, the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than 40,000 pounds of cocaine from the Panamanian ship Gatun.