Sailors nabbed smuggling cocaine - Soundings Online

Sailors nabbed smuggling cocaine

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The 49-foot sloop had more than a half-ton of the drug on board

Canadian authorities say they cracked an international drug smuggling ring when police intercepted a 49-foot sloop off Nova Scotia with 540 kilograms (nearly 1,200 pounds) of cocaine on board.

Gilles Thomas, 46, of Varennes, Quebec, and Jamie Soler Alfonso, 33, of Colombia were sailing the boat, Friendship, from Antigua to Canada when they were arrested July 5 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, according to authorities. An RCMP technical team — similar to a SWAT team — approached in RIBs as the sailboat was approaching Halifax. The men, who had departed Antigua June 23, reportedly were charged with cocaine importation and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Police also made arrests in Canada and in Antigua, charging seven others with conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

The cocaine reportedly came from South America and the Caribbean and is valued at more than $15 million (U.S). The sailboat is valued $600,000.

The operation was part of Project Colombie, an investigation launched in July 2003 by the police officers of Montreal’s RCMP drug section. Investigators discovered during the yearlong investigation that several Quebec residents conspired with South American suppliers to import several tons of cocaine into Canada, according to police.

In addition to seizing the contraband on Friendship, RCMP officers also executed a search warrant at a Nova Scotia residence where the cocaine reportedly was to be held prior to distribution. Investigators searched several other locations and seized a firearm, cash and other evidence.

Chief Superintendent Antoine Couture, Quebec RCMP Criminal Operations Officer, says the investigation was successful thanks to the collaborative effort of law enforcement agencies in Canada and abroad.

“As traffickers find new ways to import drugs, we must also find ways that are just as efficient to keep a step ahead of them. This is why it is important for police departments and other law enforcement agencies to work in partnership,” Couture said in a statement.

Other agencies that collaborated on the investigation include the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick RCMP; Canada Border Services Agency; Department of National Defence, Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Canadian Coast Guard; Longueuil Police Department; Varennes Public Security Service; Sûreté du Québec; Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Controle Policy of Antigua; and French authorities in St. Martin. Police say the investigation is ongoing.