Saturday, December 8, 2007

Coast Guard Announces Record Drug Seizures

The Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard announced today a record year for cocaine seizures with 355,755 pounds seized, worth more than $4.7 billion.

"From piracy to rum runners to illegal migrant smugglers, the Coast Guard has been continuously guarding our coasts and securing our borders since 1790," said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen. "Today, drug smugglers are resorting to riskier, more desperate tactics in an attempt to evade detection and interdiction at sea. More and more, we are seeing that they can run but cannot hide"

* In September, the Coast Guard and its partners interdicted a vessel loaded with 3,600 gallons of cocaine dissolved in diesel fuel, a technique used by smugglers to avoid detection. The liquid cocaine could be converted into 15,800 pounds of pure cocaine.
* In August, Coast Guard, Navy and Customs and Border Protection crews interdicted and boarded a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel loaded with an estimated $352 million of cocaine.
* The Coast Guard made its largest maritime cocaine seizure when it intercepted the Panamanian vessel Gatun carrying more than 33,500 pounds of the narcotic -- or approximately 20 tons -- in March 2007.

"With successful maritime interdiction efforts, drug smugglers are forced to resort to more dangerous and expensive tactics," said Cmdr. Robert Watts, chief, Coast Guard drug and migrant interdiction. "The more we push them to adopt extreme measures, the more difficult we make it for them to succeed."

Another major trend has drug smugglers increasingly turning to Pacific routes to traffic cocaine, as effective and aggressive enforcement efforts have all but shut down major routes in the Caribbean.

In the face of new routes and new tactics by smugglers, partnerships are a critical component of the Coast Guard's interdiction successes. New tools are extending the Coast Guard's law enforcement authority to targets that were previously out of reach. Bilateral agreements negotiated with 26 Caribbean and South American nations allow the service to conduct operations and stop illegal smuggling far outside U. S. territorial waters with suspected smugglers operating on foreign-flag vessels. Dramatic improvements in intelligence and information sharing among international and interagency partners have also strengthened anti-smuggling efforts.

"On behalf of the President and the American people, I commend the Coast Guard and its interagency partners for a record-breaking rate of seizures on the high seas," said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "Every load of drugs seized represents that much less that can be used to poison our young people and harm our nation. Thanks to the brave efforts of these men and women, the cocaine market in the United States has been significantly disrupted and lives are being saved as a result."

While the Coast Guard is the nation's leading maritime law enforcement agency, drug interdiction is an interagency effort. Through federal partnerships the Coast Guard is able to make significant gains in keeping illegal drugs out of our country and the profits out of the drug dealers' hands.

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