Jamaicans expect an early break in cocaine ship probe

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

Senior Superintendent Warren Clarke, Head of the TCND, told The Jamaica Gleaner that several persons, including workers at the port where the drugs were 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 was quoted as saying by 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, 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. The container, a source said, had a broken seal.

The cocaine find aboard a container on MV Vega Azurit in Jamaica is the third on the vessel for this year. (Photo from marinetraffic.com)

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.

MV Vega Azurit, a cargo vessel, 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.

Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur told Stabroek News on Thursday that the agency was contacted on the issue and its Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) was handling the matter. 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 that each container was screened by the law enforcement units of the GRA before the vessel left these shores on Sunday.

The 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 as a result of 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, who found cocaine in a shipment of logs.

While no one was ever charged in connection with the 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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