Philadelphia Drug Bust
Some of the 35,000 pounds of cocaine that U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized in Philadelphia (Photo: Reuters / Steve Sapp)

Law enforcement agents reportedly seized a cargo vessel in Philadelphia carrying a record amount of cocaine on board. According to a report citing sources with information regarding the confiscation, the ship apparently belongs to a transportation strategy fund run by the investment banking giant JPMorgan Chase.

MSC Gayane was sequestered at a terminal in Philadelphia by authorities, which found close to 20 tons of cocaine, or nearly 39,525 pounds, on board. While the fund was directly run under JPMorgan's asset management business, the bank reportedly did not have any operational control of the vessel. A Swiss-based shipping company called the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was reportedly operating the Liberian-flagged vessel during the raid.

Agents from various US agencies boarded the MSC Gayane back on June 17. After a thorough search, agents found the massive load of drugs estimated to have a street value of over $1.3 billion. The amount of the drugs seized on the ship was a new record for the state of Philadelphia.

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents immediately seized the drugs on the board the vessel. However, they did not take custody of the ship. The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced on Monday that it was already able to acquire a warrant, which will allow authorities to take custody of the vessel.

According to the US Attorney William McSwain, the process to take legal custody of the vessel was a very complicated process given the circumstances. McSwain explained that such a situation was unprecedented and the number of deadly drugs on board the vessel posed a very serious risk to the state.

McSwain stated that his office would be doing everything in their power to pursue all of the involved parties and let them face "severe consequences." CBP agents believe that there could have been a conspiracy by crewmembers and unknown suppliers, leading to the record load of dangerous drugs to be onboard the vessel. The MSC Gayane was reported en route to northern Europe before it was seized by authorities.

In response to the seizure, MSC sent out a statement explaining that it had no control over the cargo onboard its ship and that it was ready to cooperate with US authorities.  The company also reiterated that shipping companies are often affected by trafficking problems and that they are always willing to help authorities disrupt these illegal activities. MSC clarified to the public that it was not the subject of an investigation and was, in fact, helping law enforcement agencies.