MSC Gayane Cocaine Bust: Affidavit Details High-Seas Rendezvous’ and Crew’s Effort to Conceal Drugs

File photo shows the MSC Gayane
File photo shows the MSC Gayane. Photo: MarineTraffic.com

Update: More Arrests in MSC Gayane Cocaine Bust

New details are coming in about the massive cocaine bust in the Port of Philadelphia earlier this week, revealing an elaborate scheme involving members of the ship’s crew who used the ship’s crane to load the drugs during high-seas rendezvous’s with small boats.

This week’s cocaine bust on board the MSC Gayane Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia has blown up into one of the largest drug busts in U.S. history.

Authorities boarded the ship on Monday where they discovered some 16.5 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of more than $1 billion, hidden inside shipping containers. While there, they arrested two of the ship’s crewmembers, Forofaavae Tiasaga, an able seaman, and Ivan Durasevic, the Second Mate, who admitted to their roles in the scheme in interviews with authorities. The details of the interviews were contained in a criminal complaint which included an affidavit by Homeland Security Special Agent Eric Mooney.

The affidavit revealed that Durasevic and Tiasaga, along with three other crew members, stood to be paid about $50,000 each for their respective roles in helping load and hide the drugs. It also showed that the ship was met by multiple small boats on at least two separate occasions during the ship’s previous voyage, and the drugs were loaded using the ship’s crane.

The Courier-Post has more of the details:

The vessel was leaving Peru when Durasevic got a call from the chief officer to come down to the deck. There, he saw nets on the port-side stern by the ship’s crane, according to the affidavit.

Durasevic said he and others, some of whom were wearing ski masks, pushed the nets containing blue or black bags with handles toward the ship’s holds.

“Durasevic stated that he knew the bags contained drugs, but he was unaware of what type,” the affidavit said.

While talking to agents, Durasevic identified Tiasaga as one of the crew members who assisted in loading the cocaine

Tiasaga “admitted to his role in bringing the cocaine onboard the vessel and helping to conceal it within legitimate cargo,” adding that Durasevic enlisted him into trafficking, the affidavit said.

The MSC Gayane took on drug cargo in open waters as it traveled between Central and South America, investigators said they learned from Tiasaga.

As the vessel proceeded southbound between Panama and Chile, it was approached by six boats during the night.

“Durasevic operated the crane to bring on numerous bales of cocaine that were wrapped in netting. Along with bales of cocaine were replacement seals, which would be utilized on the containers in which the cocaine was concealed,” the affidavit said.

Then, as the ship made its way northbound between Chile, Peru and Panama, another eight boats approached with cocaine to load onboard, according to the affidavit.

“All of the drugs, including what had previously been loaded onto the vessel, were taken below deck and concealed within containers.”

Both Durasevic and Tiasaga are accused of knowingly and intentionally conspiring to possess with intent to distribute approximately 16.5 tons of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

Parts of the criminal complaint were also tweeted out by Steve Keeley of Fox29:

The incident remains under investigation.