16 Jul, 2019
US federal authorities have released a cargo ship owned by JP Morgan, weeks after it was seized at the Port of Philadelphia in an unprecedented drugs bust that netted 20 tons of cocaine.
They are still considering whether to pursue civil or criminal forfeiture of the ship, MSC ‘Gayane,’ which is now cruising toward the Netherlands.
US attorney William McSwain wrote on Twitter: “My office secured $10 million in cash and a $40 million surety bond from the owner and operator of the vessel in exchange for its temporary release pending a final resolution in this case.”
Progress on our MSC Gayane ship seizure: Today, my Office secured $10 million in cash and a $40 million surety bond from the owner and operator of the vessel in exchange for its temporary release pending a final resolution in this case. #MSCGayane
— US Attorney William M. McSwain (@USAttyMcSwain) July 12, 2019
The boat’s operator, Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping (MSC), and its registered owner, Bermuda-based Meridian 7, had argued that leaving the ‘Gayane’ anchored in the Delaware River posed an “extreme commercial prejudice and… hardship” to their operations.
The ship, which was built in 2018 and flew under the flag of Liberia, had traveled through South America and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia, according to the ship-tracking website marinetraffic.com.
The cargo ship belongs to JP Morgan Chase through a transportation fund managed by the bank. JP Morgan leased the ship to the MSC, which is solely responsible for the vessel’s crews and operations.
The vessel was seized last month with nearly 20 tons of cocaine on board worth $1.3 billion. The massive cocaine loot was hidden in shipping containers carrying legitimate goods, such as wine, Chilean dried nuts, and scrap metal from the United Arab Emirates.
According to CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore, “the MSC ‘Gayane’ is the largest vessel seized in US Customs and Border Protection’s 230-year history.”
It was the second MSC ship raided in Philadelphia this year in a drug case. In March, nearly 1,200 pounds of cocaine were discovered onboard the MSC ‘Desiree,’ a similar-size vessel to the ‘Gayane.’
Authorities said 1.6 tons of cocaine were seized in February on another MSC vessel, the ‘Carlotta,’ as it entered the Port of Newark, New Jersey.