Last week, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested seven MSC crew members for smuggling cocaine into the port of Miami aboard the MSC Seaside, according to crew members wishing to remain anonymous.
On Saturday, November 17, 2018, CBP officers boarded the MSC Seaside after it arrived at the port of Miami and “busted a drug smuggling ring” involving MSC crew members, according to other crew members with personal knowledge of the arrests. “A lot of cocaine was found on the ship. The drug smugglers are dangerous and many on the ship are afraid,” one of the other crew members informed us.
CBP officers reportedly found six kilos of cocaine and over $100,000 in cash.
Five of the crew members who were arrested were identified as Jamaican men were and taken into custody. At this time, we have not been able to confirm all of their identities with law enforcement. There were reportedly four women from South Africa who were arrested together with the five Jamaicans.
Two Jamaican crew members were held in jail over last weekend. They were subsequently released and taken by CBP officers to the airport and flown back to Jamaica. They were first fingerprinted and their seaman’s visas were canceled before they were flown back to Jamaica.
We have seen other crew members arrested for drug smuggling who were released who were treated in a similar manner. One such crew member was placed on the do-not-enter-the-U.S. list of U.S. immigration, as we mentioned in NCL Drug Bust Fallout.
There have been other drug busts involving both passengers and crew members involving MSC cruise ships in the past. In 2010, eight people were convicted of attempting to smuggle over 75 pounds of cocaine (worth many millions of dollars) ashore from the MSC Orchestra when it arrived in Dover from Brazil.
In January of 2011, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office with K-9 dogs raided the MSC Poesia at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale before it sailed and arrested a number of music fans on its Jam Fest cruise for a relatively small quantity of recreational drugs.
In August of 2013, the Spanish police arrested two crew members from the cruise ship MSC Magnífica, which docked in Spain on drug trafficking charges after they were caught with 15 kilos of cocaine on the cruise ship.
In November of 2013, a MSC crew member was implicated in a scheme to import ten kilos of cocaine from South America in Italy on the cruise ship MSC Armonia.
In March of 2014, the police in Brazil arrested a crew member on the cruise ship MSC Preziosa for smuggling cocaine.
November 26, 2018 p.m. update:
This evening the Miami Herald covered the drug bust and identified the crew members allegedly in smuggling the drugs. MSC crew member Jamaican Damion Hawthorne (age 32)(From Ocho Rios) recruited South African crew members Londiwe Shange (age 27), Wandile Mhlongo (age 29), Thembeka Sokhulu (age 36), and Viwe Tshaka (age 23). Jamaicans Errol Roy Sutherland (age 39) and (age 27) were also allegedly involved in the smuggling operation.
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Photo credit: Dickelbers – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.