U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials seized 3,317 pounds of cocaine valued at more than $37.6 million and arrested four alleged drug smugglers while patrolling the Carribean Sea. The drugs were likely headed to the United States, said spokesman Keith Smith.
A marine surveillance crew spotted a suspicious vessel off the coast of Panama last Friday and then watched as the suspected drug smugglers began dumping multiple bales overboard in an apparent attempt to evade capture. Three of the suspects were Colombian nationals, while the nationality of the fourth suspect was unknown, Smith said. "It's a signficant seizure," he said, adding, "There have been larger seizures in the past."
Coast Guard officials searched the dumping area and discovered 2,259 pounds of cocaine. Meanwhile, investigators were able to stop the drug smuggling vessel with help from the Colombian Navy. Another 1,049 pounds of cocaine was found on the vessel.
“The ability to effectively work with our international partners enhances our ability to target those attempting to push drugs into our local communities,” Doug Garner, director of the national air security operations center in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a statement. “We’re able to detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore.”