In the largest drug bust of its kind, the United States Coast Guard seized more than six tons of cocaine worth an estimated $181 million from a smuggling vessel 200 miles off the coast of Central America. The agency has released video of the operation, which occurred on July 19.
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Stratton, based in Northern California, intercepted a 40-foot "self-propelled semi-submersible" about 200 miles south of Mexico in international waters after a Navy patrol plane spotted it, according to a statement by the Coast Guard.
Footage of the bust shows agents approaching and climbing aboard the homemade boat. "Outside, outside!" one agent shouts in Spanish to the two men inside the vessel.
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The smuggling vessel was carrying 16,000 pounds of cocaine but agents were only able to seize about 12,000 pounds. The Coast Guard said they left the remaining 4,000 inside the boat to "stabilize it during the towing evolution," but it sank before it could reach the main Coast Guard ship, rendering its contents "unrecoverable." Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said the massive cocaine spill caused no harm to the environment, according to the Navy Times.
Video shows the agents unloading 275 bales of seized cocaine in the form of bricks and bags.
The Coast Guard has seized at least 25 similar smuggling vessels in the eastern Pacific Ocean since 2006, but this is the largest capture of a semi-submersible boat on record. Since May, the Stratton has seized more than 33,000 pounds of cocaine worth around $540 million.
"Every interception of these semi-submersibles disrupts transnational organized crime networks and helps increase security and stability in the Western Hemisphere," Coast Guard Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray said in a statement.
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