Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cocaine worth $180 million recovered from scuttled 'Narco-Submarine'

Details are emerging on the U.S. Coast Guard operation off the Honduran coast last month that saw a “narco submarine” being scuttled by its crew who were later arrested. The sub has now apparently been refloated. These mini-subs have long been a popular way for drug cartels to transport cocaine into the United States.

The USCG cutter Seneca had interdicted the drug-smuggling self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) last month in the Caribbean; USCG sources had said that the submarine was scuttled during the interdiction. The recovery of the SPSS- whose position was found on July 26- was a joint operation between the USCG, the FBI and the Honduran Navy, and has led to the recovery of nearly 7.5 tons of cocaine worth roughly $180 million. The USCG says the drugs have now been unloaded in Florida.

“The U.S. Coast Guard greatly appreciates the support and cooperation of the Honduran authorities as we worked together to recover the drugs from the sunken SPSS,” said Capt. Brendan McPherson, Seventh Coast Guard District chief of enforcement. “In addition, the technical expertise of the FBI dive team was instrumental in the success of this unique operation in international waters, far from U.S. shores, that ultimately prevented tons of cocaine from reaching our streets and neighbourhoods.”

Authorities say that about a third of all cocaine between the US, Mexico and Colombia is carried by these submarines. Built usually deep in Colombian jungles, some say with the help of ex-Soviet technicians, a typical SPSS has a crew of 4 or 5 and is designed to carry about 10 tonnes of cocaine on a voyage as long as 5000 miles; it can also be scuttled easily. The SPSS does not fully immerse, staying close to the water surface or just above it.

This particular SPSS was spotted by A C-130 fixed-wing aircraft close to the water's surface on 13 July near the Honduran province of Gracias a Dios. The smugglers jumped into life rafts after operating a valve to scuttle the SPSS, the United States Coast Guard had then revealed.

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