Wednesday, December 21, 2022

"How a Cocaine-Smuggling Cartel Infiltrated the World’s Biggest Shipping Company"

Bloomberg has a long feature:

more than 100 agents had boarded one of MSC’s ships, the Gayane, as it slid into the Port of Philadelphia for what was supposed to be a quick stop on its way to Rotterdam. Deep below deck, hidden in containers packed with wine and nuts, the agents discovered nearly 20 tons of cocaine, worth $1 billion. The ensuing investigation showed that more than a third of the crew—all MSC employees—had helped transfer vast amounts of cocaine from speedboats at night while the ship powered through the open ocean off South America. It was the largest maritime drug bust in American history.

The crime was so big and brazen that authorities made the exceptional decision to seize not just the cocaine but also the Gayane itself, a 1,000-foot-long ship worth more than $100 million.


For US officials, the company’s claim of ignorance didn’t add up.


The family likes to say seawater runs through their veins, citing shipping documents from the 17th century that bear their name


MSC also distinguished itself by emphasizing price over speed of delivery. “MSC, very often in the early years, the inside joke in the industry was that it was shorthand for ‘maybe ship comes’ ”


Searching a fully loaded ship is difficult, so much so that it’s rarely done. Holds are cramped and containers can be difficult to get to. The agents acquired special oxygen monitoring devices in case they had to go deep beneath the deck, where rusted iron can deplete oxygen levels.

The series ZeroZeroZero on Prime is terrific. (And speaking of federal agents dealing with drug runners, a NSFW movie clip.)