Pubdate: Tue, 20 Mar 2007
Source: Mainichi Daily News (Japan)
Copyright: 2007 The Mainichi Newspapers Co.
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Panamanian police seized a boat off the 
nation's Pacific coast carrying 19.4 metric tons of cocaine in one of 
the biggest maritime cocaine busts anywhere on record, officials said Monday.

National police working with agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Agency seized the boat on Sunday near the island of Coiba, said a 
police official who asked his name not be used because he was not 
authorized to speak on the record.

Police arrested 12 men on the boat, including Mexicans and 
Panamanians, and another two suspects in Panama City in connection 
with the drugs, the official said.

The boat, which was sailing under a Panamanian flag, was being 
transported to Panama City on Monday, he said.

Drug cartels often smuggle Colombian cocaine along Panama's Pacific 
coast en route to the United States.

In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy seized 28 tons of cocaine 
from two fishing boats off the coast of the Galapagos Islands in what 
U.S. State Department officials then called their largest seizures 
ever during a one-week stretch.

In 2005, police in southwest Colombia seized 15 tons of cocaine from 
a jungle stronghold, in what national authorities called the largest 
haul ever on their soil.

Ecuadorean authorities said Monday they had fished 200 kilograms (440 
pounds) from the Pacific after the crew of a boat carrying the cargo 
set the vessel ablaze after being intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Milton Lalama, director general of Ecuador's Merchant Marines, said 
crew members burned the boat "to make the evidence disappear" after 
it was intercepted last month. It was unclear how much cocaine was on 
the boat before it was burned.

The boat's crew of six Colombians and eight Ecuadoreans were 
transferred Monday to the Ecuadorean port city of Guayaquil, where 
the Colombians are in U.S. custody, Ecuador's counter-drug prosecutor 
said in Guayaquil.
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