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Biggest submarine drug bust ever yields $181 million in cocaine off Pacific coast of Central America

August 7, 2015

LOS ANGELES, United States — The U.S. Coast Guard said it seized $181 million worth of cocaine from a submarine-like vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but even more drugs sank during the recent bust.

The Coast Guard seized 12,000 pounds (5,400 kilograms) of cocaine from four smugglers on a semi-submersible ship, the agency said Wednesday.

The vessel, which was first spotted about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Mexico off the coast of Central America, was carrying a total of 16,000 pounds of narcotics, but as the ship was being towed, it took on water and sank. Some 4,000 pounds of narcotics were lost in the process.

The seizure, which took place on July 18, was the “largest recorded semi-submersible interdiction in Coast Guard history,” according to the agency.

The 40-foot (12-meter) vessel was deemed “unrecoverable” after it sank.

The Coast Guard said there have been 25 known interdictions of semi-submersible vessels in the eastern Pacific Ocean since November 2006.

“Every interception of these semi-submersibles disrupts transnational organized crime networks and helps increase security and stability in the Western Hemisphere,” Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, commander of the Pacific area, said in a statement.

Semi-submersible ships are designed for drug trafficking, and because they are mostly submerged — often with only a cockpit and exhaust pipe visible above water — they are particularly difficult to detect and interdict, the Coast Guard said.

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