Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Hunt on for culprits behind 19-gun shipment

Published:Wednesday | January 13, 2021 | 12:21 AM
The 13 handguns which were among 19 firearms illegally shipped into Montego Bay from a Florida address in the United States. The weapons and an assortment of ammunition were seized on Monday.
The 13 handguns which were among 19 firearms illegally shipped into Montego Bay from a Florida address in the United States. The weapons and an assortment of ammunition were seized on Monday.

The barrel intercepted at the port in St James on Monday with 19 guns, including six high-powered rifles and more than 400 rounds of ammunition was addressed to a female with a Falmouth address in Trelawny, law enforcement sources have revealed.

The woman’s name is being withheld.

According to law enforcement sources, the barrel listed the sender as a male who resides in Coral Springs, Florida, in the United States (US).

The surnames for the female and the sender are the same.

Three years ago, US border patrol agents intercepted two barrels at Miami International Airport with 119 guns and more 200 rounds of ammunition which were addressed to a female in Montego Bay. Both barrels also had a Coral Springs, Florida, address.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) disclosed yesterday that a multi-agency investigation is now under way to identify the persons behind the shipment of the six rifles, 13 assorted handguns and 470 rounds of ammunition, which were seized at the wharf in Montego Bay, St James, on Monday.

According to sources, the blue barrel containing the guns and labelled to contain toiletries and food items was “flagged as suspicious” last Saturday following X-rays conducted by personnel from the Port Authority of Jamaica and the cargo imaging unit of the Jamaica Customs’ Contraband Enforcement Team at a private shipping facility based in Freeport.

The police were alerted after it was opened Monday evening by members of the Contraband Enforcement Team and found to contain a duffel bag with the guns and ammunition.

The cache of weapons includes nine Glock pistols, an AK-47 rifle, a camouflage Moriarti rifle, a green Moriarti rifle and Micro Draco 7.62 rifle. The serial numbers on five of the Glock pistols were erased, sources disclosed.

The police have confirmed to The Gleaner that the Freeport wharf has been under stricter surveillance in recent years with a significant increase in the number of illegal firearms and ammunition being found in cargo shipped into the island.

This latest seizure follows in the wake of another major bust at the wharf in May 2019 when six illegal firearms and over 1,500 assorted rounds of ammunition were confiscated in a similar operation.

On that occasion, customs officers were carrying out routine checks of barrels in the wharf’s warehouse, when they detected irregularities in a particular barrel, which was searched and found to contain six 9mm semi-automatic pistols, along with 1,500 assorted rounds of ammunition.

A few days before that May 2019 seizure, an operation was carried out at the same location at the wharf, and over 1,800 assorted rounds of ammunition were found.

On November 13, 2017, the US Customs and Border Patrol Agency had also intercepted two barrels, labelled as “personal effects” at Miami International Airport, which were destined for Montego Bay.

The barrels were found to contain 115 pistols, four rifles and more than 200 assorted rounds of ammunition.

The shipping documents, according to an incident report obtained by The Gleaner, indicated that the barrels were to be collected by a female in Montego Bay. The document listed the sender as a female who resides in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, Florida.

The Gleaner, citing law enforcement officials, reported at the time that a covert operation, led by US law enforcement operatives, to nab the Jamaicans involved in the illegal shipment came up empty-handed.

The two barrels were reportedly repackaged with other goods and allowed to continue to Montego Bay with the hope that Jamaican and US operatives would apprehend the individual who attempted to collect them.

But the operation was reportedly called off after the barrels, which were under 24-hour surveillance, went uncollected for several days, a development that left the Americans infuriated.

Within recent times, reports have surfaced that several top-flight western Jamaica-based gangsters, who fled the island during last year’s tri-parish (Hanover, Westmoreland, and St James) state of emergency and made their way to the United States, have been sending back guns to their local cronies to keep influence on their old turf.

editorial@gleanerjm.com