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June 16, 10

NEWS / CBP Discovers Cocaine Concealed in Shipping Container

Estimated $2 Million in Narcotics Seized

Wilmington, Del., – Customs and Border Protection officers seized about 63 pounds of cocaine, with an estimated street value of up to $2 million, which they discovered concealed in the ventilation system of a refrigerated shipping container at the Port of Wilmington, Del., on June 6.

CBP tactical operations officers from the Port of Philadelphia and officers from the Port of Wilmington were conducting a joint container inspection operation when they discovered two brick-like objects concealed in the container’s ventilation system shortly before 10 a.m. A comprehensive inspection revealed a total of 26 bricks that weighed 28.6 kilograms, or about 63 pounds. The wholesale value is about $750,000 and street value as much as $2 million.

The container of bananas arrived aboard the M/V Dole Chile, which routinely brings fresh produce from Central America to Wilmington. It makes port calls in Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras before arriving stateside at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Wilmington.

“It’s not unusual for generally law-abiding international transportation companies to become unwitting victims of narcotics traffickers,” said Allan Martocci, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “It appears likely that the cocaine was concealed in the ventilation unit before being laden aboard the Dole Chile in anticipation of its delivery to the United States. The bad guys just didn’t anticipate that Customs and Border Protection would discover it first.”

Officers turned the cocaine over to special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the lead DHS investigative agency for port seizures. ICE and the DEA, along with other law enforcement partners, are continuing to investigate the seizure.

CBP officers routinely inspect maritime shipping containers using non-intrusive technology or by devanning a container’s contents. Nationally, officers discover stolen vehicles, merchandise knock-offs and agriculture violations among products imported and exported in shipping containers.

“One of the keys to combating narcotics networks is to disrupt their transportation and distribution routes, and this seizure effectively eliminates one potential route,” said Martocci.

The Port of Wilmington remains a robust fruit and produce import facility. It remains the #1 port for importing fresh fruit, bananas and juice concentrate. CBP officers at the Port of Wilmington officers and agriculture specialists conducted more than 13,600 cargo inspections and discovered more than 300 insect pests during fiscal year 2009.




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