US DEA names Guyanese held in US$17 million cocaine haul

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 February 2017, 23:40 by Denis Chabrol

The boat carrying the cocaine was stopped and searched by authorities February 16 during a joint patrol by the crews of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Joseph Napier and the Coast Guard of Trinidad and Tobago

Four Guyanese, who were caught aboard a St. Vincent-registered fishing vessel with more than US$70 million worth of cocaine, are due to return to a United States Virgin Islands court on Wednesday for a detention hearing.

Mohamed Nazim Hoseain,64,  Richard La Cruz,49,  Neville Jeffrey,68, and 30-year old Mark Anthony Williams were held aboard the Lady Michelle on February 16, 2017 about 70 nautical miles off Paramaribo, Suriname in international waters.

“Crew members typically serve as couriers to assist in loading and offloading of the contravand. Their purpose on the vessel is to perform that task,” said US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent, Jeremy Latchman in court papers seen by Demerara Waves Online News.

The investigator added that the 185 bales of cocaine, each fetching a street value of US$17,500 per kilogramme in the US Virgin Islands, were found behind a false wooden bulkhead in the vicinity of the vessel’s hold. The total value of the cocaine is US$71,750,000

Latchman said US$4,000 in 100 dollar bills were also found in the vessel.

Latchman said Hoseain initially lied that he and he and his crew had been searching for a missing vessel and that Lady Michelle was registered in Guyana. The DEA agent said after St. Vincent authorities confirmed the nationality of the vessel, permission was obtained to board it in keeping with a bilateral agreement in the fight against drug trafficking.

The DEA agent related that the fishing vessel was found on a route usually used by drug traffickers who fetch South American cocaine to the Caribbean, United States and other countries.

“The vessel that was later identified as the Lady Michelle appeared to be dead-in-the-water and was also in water too deep to conduct normal fishing operations. The vessel was also located in a known drug trafficking route.

Drug traffickers commonly utilize fishing vessels to transport large quantities of drugs that are transported from countries such as Colombia and Venezuela where  the drugs are then staged for loading unto the fishing vessels. The drugs are then transported on the fishing vessels through the Caribbean islands to destinations such as the other islands, the United States and Europe,” the DEA agent said.

Demerara Waves Online News was told Tuesday by a local law enforcement agent that the vessel, Lady Michelle, last came to Guyana in 2013 and was not previously known to have been involved in drug trafficking.