Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have seized a container ship operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Co., weeks after authorities found more than $1 billion worth of cocaine on the vessel in what was one of the largest drug busts in American history.
US Customs and Border Protection seized the ship on July 4, a statement out Monday said. The ship is owned by client assets in a maritime strategy offered by JPMorgan Asset Management, according to a person familiar with the matter. It is operated by the Switzerland-based MSC.
”A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented—but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented,” Mr. McSwain said. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my office will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district—and our country.”
On June 17, border agents found 39,525 pounds of cocaine stashed in several containers on the MSC Gayane at the Philadelphia seaport. The street value of the drugs was estimated at about $1.3 billion, making it the largest cocaine seizure by the agency.
Prosecutors have not accused shipping company MSC of any wrongdoing, but at least three of the company’s ships have been raided by federal authorities this year. In February, agents found about 3,200 pounds of cocaine in one of its containers hauling mostly dried fruit in Newark, New Jersey. And in March, authorities discovered 13 large duffel bags full of cocaine transported in an MSC shipping container.
“MSC remains grateful to the government officials in the U.S. for their proactive work and has offered its continued support, building on a longstanding track record of good cooperation with the authorities,” an MSC spokesman said in a statement. “MSC is assisting and cooperating with the authorities as required and the company is not the target of any investigation.”
Eight crew members from Serbia and Samoa were arrested and several have been charged in the case, the people involved said. They said the ship’s second officer and another crew member were charged with helping bring the cocaine aboard the vessel.
Global maritime regulation doesn’t require ocean carriers to check the contents of all containers they move as this would lead to long delays across supply chains.
JPMorgan declined to comment. Mediterranean Shipping Co. did not immediately respond to an email inquiry.