PHILADELPHIA — A cargo ship owned by JP Morgan Asset Management and chartered by Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was raided by authorities in June, who seized 19 tons of cocaine valued at more than $1 billion, officials said.
Officials said they are now seizing the ship, the MSC Gayane, which is operated by MSC, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented – but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented," U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement. "When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my Office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district – and our country."
Customs and Border Protection officers raided the vessel June 17 in what is considered the largest drug seizure in U.S. history. Several crew members were arrested and are facing charges, officials said.
The MSC Gayane, a massive ship built in 2018, can hold 10,000 shipping containers, is more than 1,030 feet long and is valued at around $90 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Seizing a vessel of this size is an unusual enforcement action for CBP, but is indicative of the serious consequences associated with an alleged conspiracy by crewmembers and others to smuggle a record load of dangerous drugs through the United States,” Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore, said in a release.
Officials with JP Morgan Asset Management have not commented.
This is not the first time MSC, one of the world’s largest shipping container operators, has had drugs seized on one of its vessels this year.
In February, Border Protection agents found 3,200 pounds of cocaine in a container in New Jersey. In March, 13 duffel bags filled with $38 million worth of cocaine were found in a shipping container in Philadelphia.
"Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems," company officials said in a statement in June. "MSC has a longstanding history of cooperating with U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to help disrupt illegal narcotics trafficking and works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection."
In response to those two incidents, customs officials suspended MSC's Customs-Trade Partnership certification, making cargo on its ships subject to increased inspection, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"MSC remains grateful to the government officials in the U.S. for their proactive work and has offered its continued support, building on a longstanding track record of good cooperation with the authorities," MSC said in a statement. "MSC is assisting and cooperating with the authorities as required and the company is not the target of any investigation."