Jamaicans have `good understanding’ of cocaine smuggling on ship from Guyana

Jamaican investigators at the Transnational Crime and Narcotics Division (TCND) say they have a “good understanding” of how cocaine valued at $112 million was smuggled into the island yesterday on board a ship coming from Guyana.

Head of the TCND, Senior Superintendent Warren Clarke, told the Jamaica Gleaner that several persons, including workers at the port where the drug was found, are being interviewed and he expected an early breakthrough in the case.

“There are some things that we know and some areas that we are looking at but we don’t want to give away (too) much too early,” Clarke told The Gleaner yesterday.

“We have a very good understanding of what happened and we look forward to a resolution very soon,” he added.

According to the Jamaica Customs Department, the cocaine, which weighed 50 pounds, was found in a container at Berth 9, Port Bustamante, in Kingston, aboard the ship Vega Azurit.

Customs officials, in a statement yesterday, said the vessel was targeted by its Contraband Enforcement Team and the police.

According to The Gleaner the Customs Department said the drug was found after the joint team searched a 40-foot refrigerated container that had been declared empty.

Reports are that during the search, five boxes labelled ‘Coke’, ‘Pepsi’ and ‘Canada Dry’ were found with a white powdery substance resembling cocaine inside them.

They were taken to the TCND offices where the substance was tested and weighed.

There has been no arrest in the case as yet.

The cargo vessel MV Vega Azurit left Guyana’s shores on Sunday en-route to the United States. It was the third such find on the same ship for this year.
The cocaine has a street value of $112 million and reports are that it was found in a refrigerated container with a broken seal, a source on the island said. The container was declared empty in customs documents presented to the authorities on the island.

Commissioner General of the GRA, Khurshid Sattaur, told Stabroek News yesterday that the agency was contacted on the issue and its Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) was handling the matter. He said he had not been properly briefed on the issue.

Reports are that the discovery was made during a routine search of the vessel by anti-narcotics agents, including the Jamaican Customs Contraband Enforcement Team on Wednesday as cargo was being discharged and loaded onto the vessel at Port Bustamante in the island’s capital Kingston.

The ship arrived in Guyana on Saturday from neighbouring Suriname and departed several hours later around 1 am on Sunday for the Caribbean island.

Jamaican authorities are investigating whether the illegal substance was placed on board the vessel after it arrived there or whether it was done here in Guyana.

A local anti-narcotics source told this newspaper yesterday that each container was screened by the law enforcement units of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) before the vessel left these shores on Sunday.

The infamous MV Vega Azurit, which is owned by an Antigua and Barbuda company, but registered in Monrovia, Liberia had been placed under watch internationally by drug enforcement units since it was involved in drug busts in the past several months.

In March this year the vessel was at the centre of a $700 million drug bust made by the Jamaican authorities in which cocaine in a shipment of logs, was uncovered on the island. While no one was ever charged in connection with that bust, two GRA officers were disciplined and subsequently dismissed for breach of operational procedures.

In August this year, the vessel was intercepted with 130 pounds of cocaine at Kingston, Jamaica. The substance was found in 5 bags in several containers.

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