Four More Charged in Record-Setting Port of Philadelphia Drug Bust

MSC Gayane (file image)

Published Jun 20, 2019 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

Four more crewmembers of the container ship MSC Gayane have been charged in connection with the discovery of 15.5 tonnes of cocaine on board. Federal agents found the record-breaking haul in seven containers aboard the vessel during an inspection at the Port of Philadelphia. 

Two individuals, second officer Ivan Durasevic and seafarer Fonofaavae Tiasaga, have already pleaded guilty. Charging documents for Durasevic indicate that prosecutors have reason to believe that the chief officer and the ship's electrician were also involved in the scheme. 

The second indictment is sealed, but a federal source confirmed to local media that four more mariners - identified as Bosco Markovic, 37, Alekandar Kavaja, 25, Nenad Ilic, 39, and Laauli Pulu, 32 - have also been charged. Additional information about their roles aboard the ship was not released. 

The 10,000 TEU MSC Gayane is assigned to MSC's NWC-USA-SAWC rotation, and she called at ports in the Bahamas, Panama, Colombia and Peru prior to her arrival in Philadelphia. According to charging documents, members of the Gayane's crew brought the drugs aboard during multiple rendezvous with small boats at sea, then concealed the narcotics in containers. Local media reported that the shipment of cocaine was ultimately intended for delivery in the Netherlands and France, not for the American market.

In a statement, MSC said that it regularly works with law enforcement to address smuggling, and thanked American authorities for interdicting the cocaine shipment aboard the Gayane.  

As of Thursday night, the Gayane was still moored in Philadelphia, three days after the interdiction.