Coast Guard offloads $17 million of cocaine

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Webber offload cocaine at Coast Guard Sector Miami Beach, Fla., Nov. 20, 2015. The HNLMS Friesland, an offshore patrol vessel from the Royal Netherlands Navy, interdicted a go-fast vessel with four suspected smugglers and 22 bales of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $17 million. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Webber offload cocaine at Coast Guard Sector Miami Beach, Fla., Nov. 20, 2015.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)

MIAMI — Coast Guardsmen on the Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber offloaded approximately 515 kilograms of cocaine interdicted in the Caribbean Sea as part of Operation Caribbean Venture worth an estimated wholesale value of $17 million at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, Florida, Friday.

On November 15, a Joint Interagency Task Force South maritime patrol aircraft located a suspicious go-fast vessel with multiple packages aboard southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic. The HNLMS Friesland, an offshore patrol vessel from the Royal Netherlands Navy, responded to the report and interdicted the vessel with four suspected smugglers and suspicious packages on deck.  A U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment team deployed aboard the Friesland subsequently boarded the go-fast vessel and recovered 22 packages that tested positive for cocaine.

The four suspected smugglers were transferred to U.S. authorities for prosecution. The Friesland transferred the suspects and contraband to the Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber who was returning home from a successful counterdrug patrol off of Puerto Rico in support of Operation Unified Resolve.

“This seizure highlights how effectively the U.S Coast Guard and our Allied partners are working together to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs from South America into the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin, deputy chief of law enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. “We have to keep these drugs from penetrating our borders. More importantly, we have to get after the organized criminal networks that fuel the violence and instability in the Western Hemisphere.”

Since October 2014, the Coast Guard has removed and seized over 222 metric tons of cocaine ($7.4 billion). In addition, the Coast Guard and its federal partners have brought more than 500 smugglers in more than 200 cases in for prosecution and seized over 145 vessels, both record highs. These numbers include seizures on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The interdiction was result of Operation Caribbean Venture, an international operation led by the Commander Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean. U.S. Coast Guard and U.S Navy units assigned to Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South) and the Seventh Coast Guard District participate in this operation, often alongside Dutch Navy and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard assets.

Joint Interagency Task Force South, a National Task Force, oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists US and multinational law enforcement agencies with the interdiction of illicit traffickers.

The Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber is 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Miami.

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