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News Release
February 18, 2005

USCG and British Navy detains Honduran vessel, 9 foreign national crewmembers arrested by ICE, CBP search of vessel yields 950 Kilograms of Cocaine

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico— H.S. Garcia, U.S., Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico; Jerome M. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Capt. Douglas Rudolph, Commander, Sector San Juan, United States Coast Guard (USCG), and Roberto G. Medina, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today the seizure of 950.5 kilograms (2091 pounds) of cocaine and 50 grams of heroin aboard the Babouth, a Honduran-flag cargo vessel navigating on the high seas.

On January 30, RFA Wave Ruler, a British Ship with a USCG law enforcement detachment on board was conducting a routine patrol when it intercepted the Babouth for a routine and random inspection. Inclement weather, sea conditions, and safety of law enforcement personnel as well as the crew prevented the completion of the inspection on the high seas and the Babouth was escorted to the port of San Juan by USCG Cutter Shamel, a 179-foot patrol vessel and the newest addition to the Coast Guard inventory and on long-term loan from the U.S. Navy for a more in-depth inspection.

During the continued inspection at the US Coast Guard Base San Juan, federal agents discovered several bales that tested positive for cocaine (950.5 kilograms) and 50 grams of heroin and proceeded to arrest the nine crew members of the Babouth (four Colombians, two Peruvians, one Haitian one Chilean and one from Tanzania).

According to DEA Special Agent in Charge Jerome Harris close cooperation between nations is paramount to effectively disrupting drug trafficking in the Caribbean. “This significant seizure demonstrates the importance of close and effective coordination and integration of multi national law enforcement efforts in our region. Not only is important to work with our United States counterparts such as the USCG, ICE and the CBP, it is also important to work with our foreign counterparts. This excellent multi national interdiction operation would not have been possible without close coordination and cooperation between the British and United States governments” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jerome Harris.

“Once again, the cooperative effort of federal, local and international law enforcement agencies showed great results and a significant amount of dangerous drugs was kept off our streets. The commitment and work of all the agencies involved was exemplary and to be commended,” said U.S. Attorney H.S. Bert García”.

“This is a tremendous effort and shows the commitment of Federal and Local law enforcement agencies alike to fight crime and sends a clear message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute those involved in criminal activity in our jurisdiction. Today, thanks to the diligent efforts of all the agencies involved in this operation, prevented that over 2000 pounds of cocaine and a smaller amount but yet, equally dangerous, of drugs reached the streets of Puerto Rico,” said ICE Special Agent in Charge, Roberto G. Medina.

“This significant seizure of more than a ton of cocaine demonstrates the close cooperation between the U. S. Coast Guard and our British allies who provides the US Coast Guard with the ability to board vessels suspected of carrying drugs in the Eastern Caribbean. It also shows how the agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, the US Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have teamed together to protect the borders of the United States,” said Capt. Douglas Rudolph, Commander, Sector San Juan, United States Coast Guard.

The 950.5 kilograms of cocaine have an approximate street value of 12 to 22 million dollars depending on its purity. The 50 grams heroin, on the other hand, has a street value of 2,500 to 3,000 dollars.

The nine persons arrested, as well as the contraband, are under the custody of ICE and the case has been referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico for prosecution.

The public is reminded that charges against these individuals are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial and the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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