MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard said Friday it had seized cocaine and marijuana worth an estimated $11.8 million in the Caribbean Sea as part of an effort to counter rampant drug trafficking.
On Sept. 3, U.S. patrol aircraft detected a suspicious Panamanian-flagged vessel sailing southeast of Nicaragua that did not respond to radio calls. A U.S. law enforcement team boarded the ship after receiving permission from the Panamanian government, and found 560 pounds (255 kilograms) of cocaine in a hidden compartment with a wholesale value of $8.5 million.
The same day, while responding to a sunken vessel call, the Coast Guard cutter Vigilant located 68 bales of marijuana floating in the water.
Crews recovered more than 3,600 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated wholesale value of $3.3 million.
The Coast Guard offloaded the drugs on Friday in Miami Beach.
‘Great pride’ in drug trafficking battle
“We take great pride in knowing that these seizures will help our investigatory agencies begin to dismantle the transnational organized crime networks that wreak havoc across the Western Hemisphere,” said Commander Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of law enforcement for the Coast Guard Seventh District.
Since October 2014, the Coast Guard has seized on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts nearly 130 tons of cocaine worth an estimated $4.3 billion, the most since 2008.
And in another record, the Coast Guard and its federal partner agencies have brought 439 smugglers in for prosecution and seized 135 vessels.
The latest seizure was conducted as part of Operation Martillo, part of an effort to counter the use of Central American coasts as shipment routes for illegal drugs, weapons and cash.