US Sentences Montenegrin Over Tons of Cocaine Found on Ship

The ship MSC Gayane at the Port of Philadelphia, US. Photo:US Customs & Border Protection

The US Department of Justice said Penda pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possession of cocaine, with intent to distribute it, on a vessel under US jurisdiction.

It said that Penda, an engineer on the MSC Gayane, conspired with seven other crew members to engage in a bulk smuggling scheme with cocaine.

"The follow-up investigation uncovered dark-of-night, clandestine drug trafficking conduct which read like a movie plot, and prosecutors in our office have been working non-stop since then to pursue justice in this case", Acting US Attorney Williams told the media.

US law enforcement agents boarded the Gayane on June 17, 2019, when it arrived at Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, and seized about 20 tons of cocaine worth over 1 billion dollars from its shipping containers. Federal authorities called it one of the largest drug busts in US history.

Investigations showed the Gayane's crew members helped load big packages of cocaine from speedboats that approached the vessel in the middle of the night under cover of darkness. They stashed the cocaine in the cargo area, using fake seals to reseal the containers.

Seven other crew members, four Montenegrins, one Serbian citizen and two from Samoa, also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy charges. They await sentencing.

Since August 2018, a number of citizens of Balkan states have been arrested abroad for trafficking in drugs, by private jet, cargo ship and boat.

In February 2020, authorities in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba seized five tons of cocaine on board a cargo ship destined for Greece and arrested several Montenegrin crew members for...

Continue reading on: