Drug Bust at sea - Almost $1b worth of cocaine seized by JDF/JCF team
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard and the Narcotics Police yesterday staged the largest maritime drug bust in Jamaica in more than 14 years, when they intercepted and seized 36 bales of cocaine during a major drug interdiction just off the Belmont Beach area of Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
According to police sources, the drug haul has an estimated street value of more than US$7.2 million (approximately J$1 billion).
The JDF has reported that at approximately 1 a.m. yesterday, a United States Maritime Patrol Aircraft spotted a vessel suspected of illicit trafficking heading towards Jamaica and informed the JDF headquarters.
The information was passed to the JDF Coast Guard, which deployed patrol vessels to intercept and apprehend the go-fast boat.
When spotted, the operators of the go-fast reportedly made efforts to evade capture and to jettison its cargo.
The JDF, along with its Jamaica Constabulary Force Narcotics Division counterparts, then launched a rapid-response deployment involving elements of the JDF Air Wing for aerial support and infantry soldiers from the First Battalion the Jamaica Regiment, who were already deployed in Westmoreland on internal security duties.
During the pursuit, the JDF Coast Guard fired warning shots across the bow of the vessel in what the army described as "keeping with international maritime law enforcement rules of engagement".
The vessel was eventually apprehended and four men, believed to be part of the suspected crew, were detained by the Narcotics Police who are handling the investigation.
Late yesterday, head of the Narcotics Police, Senior Superintendent Calvin Small, told our news team that the men had not been charged. According to Small, the men would be interviewed and a decision made if they should be charged.
The JDF said the operation represented the value of the ongoing cooperation and mutual support between Jamaica and the government of the United States.
"The vessels used in last night's operation were inshore patrol vessels recently donated by the United States Government," the JDF added.
The action of the local security forces was lauded by Joshua Polacheck, public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Kingston, who noted that with his country's recent donation of the boats to the JDF Coast Guard and the police, Jamaica now has the largest law enforcement maritime fleet in the Caribbean.
"We believe that this a game changer and criminals will find it more difficult to move their drugs through Jamaican waters," said Polacheck.