Genoa - U.S. authorities have released a container ship that was seized with 20 tons of cocaine in Philadelphia after the operator posted a $50 million bond, including $10 million in cash, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The release of the MSC Gayane, owned by J.P. Morgan Asset Management and chartered to Mediterranean Shipping Co., means the ship can resume commercial operations after being held at the Port of Philadelphia for nearly a month.
The ship, which is worth around $90 million, is still subject to possible forfeiture if the probe links senior crew members with the cocaine haul, people with knowledge of the matter said to the Journal.Federal authorities had raided the Gayane on June 17, after founding the cocaine worth more than $1 billion.
“This amount of cocaine could kill millions - MILLIONS - of people,” Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain had said on Twitter. The ship had been in Chile, Peru and Colombia and Panama over the last month before reaching the U.S., according to Reuters vessel tracking data.
The seizure ranks among some of the largest in U.S. history including a bust of 21 tons of cocaine in California in 1989 and 14 tons of cocaine confiscated in Texas during the same year.
The Gayane was the second MSC ship raided in Philadelphia this year for drug movement. In March, federal agents discovered nearly 1,200 pounds of cocaine onboard the MSC Desiree, a similar-size vessel to the Gayane. Customs agents also seized 1.6 tons of cocaine on another MSC vessel, the MSC Carlotta, as it entered the Port of Newark, N.J., in February, authorities told the Wall Street Journal.
The ship departed the Philadelphia port Saturday and was on its way to Rotterdam for a return to commercial service. A spokesman for MSC, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, said the company continues to cooperate with U.S. authorities.