Federal agents seized 15,500 kilos of cocaine, more than 16.5 tons, with a street value of $1 billion at a South Philadelphia Port on Tuesday, according to NBC Philadelphia.
“This is one of the largest drug seizures in United States history,” Tweeted U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.
The cocaine was seized from the ship MSC Gayane, which was traveling from Chile, Panama and the Bahamas before docking in Philadelphia’s Delaware River. (RELATED: Man Dies On Airplane After Consuming 246 Bags Of Cocaine)
The ship may have been loaded with tons of illegal drugs in the Bahamas before reaching the United States, investigators told NBC Philadelphia. It was set to depart for Europe before officials boarded it in Philadelphia.
Seven shipping containers concealed the illegal drugs, which agents opened, revealing the 16.5 tons of drugs in bags, an official said, according to ABC News. It is considered the largest drug bust ever in the area.
The U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania Tweeted that “Members of the ship’s crew have been arrested and federally charged, and an investigation is on-going.”
“Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection are leading a multi-agency inspection of shipping containers aboard a merchant ship at the Port of Philadelphia,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement, according to NBC.
McSwain, noting the recent trend to mix cocaine with fentanyl, told NBC Philadelphia that “the ship contained enough cocaine to ‘kill millions of people.’”
Fentanyl is “50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine,” and is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bust marks Philadelphia’s second major drug seizure of the year. $38 million worth of cocaine was seized in March after dogs sniffed out the drugs in a Philadelphia port.
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