P&O Arcadia CocaineNewspapers in the U.K. are reporting that a cruise ship passenger, who used a cruise in the Caribbean last fall as a cover to smuggle cocaine, has been jailed.

The cruise in question occurred last October (of 2017) and apparently involved the P&O Arcadia.

BBC News reports that a 55 year old British citizen was arrested "as he disembarked a cruise liner at Southampton Docks." According to the the newspaper, approximately three kilos of cocaine was found in his suitcases (photo left). The cocaine reportedly was worth more than £200,000. 

The article does not mention the name of the cruise ship or cruise line but the only cruise ship which had returned from a cruise to the Caribbean (including Castries, St. Lucia) in port in Southampton at the end of October of 2017 was P&O’s Arcadia.

St. Lucia Southampton Cocaine Smuggle CruiseThe passenger was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison, following a trial at Southampton Crown Court. The National Crime Agency (NCA) reportedly said that the passenger claimed "the cruise had been paid for following a win on the horses, and that he had innocently purchased the suitcases."

The NCA proved that the passenger collected the suitcases in Castries, St Lucia, and that he had been in contact with others suspected of involvement in the importation. A  NCA officer reportedly stated that "our investigation involved liaison with law enforcement partners in the Caribbean, and through that, we were able to prove that (his) story was made up . . . it became clear that he had contacts with others involved in drug trafficking on both sides of the Atlantic."

This is not the first time that a passenger aboard the Acadia was arrested for smuggling cocaine from St. Lucia into the U.K. Nine years ago four passengers aboard the Arcadia were arrested (and later convicted and sentenced to jail for 12 years each) for attempting to smuggle nearly 20 kilos of cocaine P&O Cruise Smuggling Cocaine Arcadiawith an estimated street value of £1.75 million into the port of Southampton, according to the BBC. The drugs had been picked up at the port in Castries. 

Each of the passengers reportedly had been caught smuggling the cocaine taped to their bodies (photo right).

Passengers on the P&O Aurora were busted with large quantities of cocaine in separate incidents in January and February of 2012. The passengers were caught smuggling over 40 kilos of cocaine.  

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Photo credit: NCA via BBC.

The federal police in Australia report that its law enforcement officers and the Australia border protection agency seized thirty (30) kilos of cocaine stashed aboard an unidentified cruise ship which docked in Sydney on November 30, 2017.  Four passengers were arrested on the ship and escorted from the cruise ship – a 41-year-old Belgian woman and three French nationals, including a 61-year-old man, a 54-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force released a multimedia news release titled No Sooth Sailing for International Cocaine Syndicate, with photographs of the drugs and the suspects. The release did not identify the name of the cruise line or cruise ship.

The cruise ship originated in the United Kingdom. The arrests took place after a joint operation between the Australian Border Force and their counterparts in United Kingdom.

The Australian authorities have been successful making drug busts on cruise ships entering the ports in Sydney. Last year, authorities seized 95 kilos of cocaine that three passengers smuggled on a Princess cruise ship (the Sea Princess).  The question arises whether smuggling anywhere from 30 to 100 kilos of drugs aboard a cruise ship must involve help from crew members.  Given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships, some people M/S Astor - Cruise and Maritime Voyagesquestion whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage.

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Hat tip to Crew Center where I first learned of the drug bust.

Update: The cruise ship where the drug bust occured is the M/S Astor, operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, according to several individuals familiar with the cruise ports in Austrralia. The Astor was docked at the White Bay Cruise Terminal at the time of the drug sizure and arrests.

Photo credit: Australian Government (top and bottom); Bahnfrend – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia (M/S Astor).

Cruise Ship Drug Bust - Sydney

 

Norwegian Escape7 News Belize reports that three NCL crew members were arrested in Belize for possession of two kilos of cocaine which was picked up in Roatan and taken on an unidentified NCL cruise ship to the private destination of Harvest Caye, apparently with the intention of being smuggled into the U.S.  The news stations says that:

The police have not released any official information, but 7News has learned that 3 employees of Norwegian Cruise Lines were charged with drug trafficking for allegedly being in possession of two kilos of cocaine on a cruise ship. Our information is that the 3 men are now arrested and charged, and they are at the Belize Central Prison.

Reports are that the men, 2 nationals of St. Lucia and 1 from St. Vincent, arrived on last Tuesday, on an NCL ship which made a port of call at the Harvest Caye Island getaway. The men worked on the Ship. Reports say that the two kilos may have been picked up in Roatan.

The men were arrested, and charged, and they were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court. They are now at the Belize Central Prison.

Smuggling cocaine is big business on the high seas. Two years ago, five NCL crew members on the Norwegian Sun were arrested in Tampa when the cruise ship returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up the drugs. The Tampa Bay Times reported that they worked for NCL as utility workers in the Norwegian Sun’s galley.

A few months later, a NCL crew member employed aboard the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine aboard the ship when it was docked in Roatan.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has busted a cocaine smuggling operation where NCL crew members smuggled cocaine from Honduras to New Orleans aboard NCL’s Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

The article did not identify the NCL cruise ship involved in this latest smuggling caper, although it is believed to be the Norwegian Escape.

Costa and Princess crew members were recently arrested in cocaine smuggling schemes using cruise ships.

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June 21, 2017 Update: The newspaper in Belize identified the NCL crew members: Derson Frank, from St. Vincent; Renaldo Roberts, also from St. Vincent; and Jamal Celise of St. Lucia.

Photo credit: Arno Redenius – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

For a two year period from 2012 to 2014, as many as thirty-four people who posed as cruise ship passengers on Costa ships participated in a smuggling network that transported hashish from Morocco to Brazil and cocaine from South America to Europe, according to the The Local newspaper in France.

The French newspaper reported that the "innovative and audacious" international drug smuggling ring consisted of nearly three dozen "low-level ‘mules’ who came from the same working class area of the city of Nice" and strapped the drugs to their bodies and carried the hash and cocaine on and off Costa cruise ships.

The drug carriers are on trial in France for smuggling the drugs between several continents. The Costa Cruise Shipsarticle says that the cruise staff on the cruise ships wondered what these young people were doing on cruises "if they were not accompanying their grandparents.”  

The article also mentioned that the the ill-fated Costa Concordia was reportedly carrying a huge shipment of Mafia-owned cocaine when she sank in January 2012.

We previously reported that several people were arrested with over 16 kilos of cocaine while disembarking the Costa Pacifica in Malaga following a Transatlantic cruise from South America several years ago.

The use of cruise ships to smuggle cocaine is a subject which we have reported on many times over the last couple of years. A few examples: 

There was a major drug bust (15 kilos) aboard the Splendor of the Seas in Buenos Aires in 2015. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship was heading to Brazil and then Europe.

In the same year, five men were caught trying to smuggle 26 kilos aboard the MSC Magnifica in São Paulo.

Three passengers were busted on a Princess cruise ship, the Sea Princess, last August of 2016, for smuggling over 209 pounds of cocaine.   

Just two weeks ago, three Princess crew members on the Island Princess were nabbed in Vancouver for smuggling five kilos of cocaine into Canada.

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Photo credit: Abxbay CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Osland Princess Crew MembersCanadian news stations have identified the three crew members from the Island Princess who were arrested last week for smuggling drugs into Vancouver, as we mentioned in a prior article

CTV News Vancouver identified three Nicaraguan crew members, Willard Murray Brooks (age 28), Emil Hebbert Garth (age 26) and Jason West Carter, (age 32) who were recruited by a Colombian drug cartel to smuggle 10 kilograms of cocaine onto the Island Princess when it docked in Cartagena. The Princess cruise ship later called on Vancouver on May 11th after sailing to Panama and, later, to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Once the  ship docked in Vancouver, CTV reports that the three crew members smuggled five kilograms of cocaine to a shore-side food court where an unidentified man met them and later paid US$30,000 for the drugs. The men reportedly tucked the cash into their underwear before heading back to the cruise ship. Canadian Border Services found the undeclared cash when the drug mules went through screening. A Vancouver police canine unit and the Canadian Border Services then searched the men’s cabins where they reportedly located an additional amount of cocaine.

The men did not dispute the charges. CTV reports the dcrew members "also said they did not fear a return to their home country of Nicaragua, where they are expected to be flown within seven days. CBSA will hold Princess Cruise Lines responsible for the travel costs."

No explanation was provided by CTV why the drug smugglers did not face jail time in Canada. It is doubtful that the three crew members will face any charges once they have been returned home.  

A one-way ticket home to Nicargua for the crew members to be paid by Princess Cruises is hardly a deterrent to international drug smuggling.

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Video and photo credit: CTV Canada Vancouver

 

Cruise Ship Drug BustThe widely reported drug bust of three passengers this week on the Sea Princess cruise ship in Australia uncovered serious shortcomings in Princess Cruises’ shipboard security.  

We have written about dozens of drug busts of relatively small quantities of cocaine on cruise ships over the years.  But 95 kilos (over 209 lbs.!) of cocaine seems to be hard to believe.  Many people have expressed their opinions that this must have been an inside job (we have no proof of this), given the use of screening equipment on cruise ships.  But some people have questioned whether the drugs were loaded onto the ship along with food and provisions and then transferred to the passengers to be smuggled off the ship in their luggage.

If the shipboard security team wasn’t involved, they obviously need to enforce far better protocols to carefully screen baggage and items brought onboard the ship.    

IHS Fairplay published an article today saying that the drug bust "highlights the ability for more sinister items to be smuggled onto vessels."  In an article titled Drugs Find Highlights Cruise Security Threat, Fairplay says that "cruise companies were taking, and continue to take, security seriously but that the incident had to act as a wake-up call to revisit current systems." It quoted Gerry Northwood, a principal of the international maritime security company MAST, explaining that cruise passengers don’t face the Cruise Ship Drug Bustsame restrictions as air travelers.

Northwood also warns that "If a terrorist were to secrete an explosive device inside a consignment of food, it is possible that the explosion would likely happen below the water line with obvious implications for the vessel and the safety of the passengers and crew.”

Commander Mark Gaouette, the former security head of Cunard and Princess Cruises, said in an interview today that the cruise industry should be concerned with the possibility of a terrorist group masterminding a gigantic conflagration on a ship. He cites the 2004 attack by an Islamic terrorist group which planted just eight kilograms of TNT in a cardboard box aboard the Superferry 14 in the Philippines.  The resulting fire and explosion killed over a hundred passengers and sank the ferry. 

Commander Gaouette is the author of Cruising for Trouble, Cruise Ships As Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals

Photo credit: Top – Department of Immigration and Border Protection via Sydney Morning Herald; bottom – Jonathan Ng via the Daily Telegraph.  

 

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel advisory to Honduras, stating that the level of kidnapping, crime, and violence in Honduras remains “critically high.” (this warning supersedes the last warning in October 2015).

The warning states that “criminal activity is a serious problem throughout the country and the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly respond to, investigate, and prosecute cases. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras.”

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world (it’s homicide rate was 60 per 100,000 in 2015; in comparison, the U.S. rate is around 4.5 per 100,000). The warning further states that the U.S. Embassy recorded 37 murders of U.S. citizens since 2011, with three recorded since January 2016.

Cruise Roatan

Many tourist-dependent businesses and U.S. and Canadian expatriates on Roatan claim that the island is generally safe. The hotels, resorts, bars and dive-shops advertise Roatan as an idyllic, tropical, get-a-way vacation paradise. The State Department warning acknowledges that the islands are generally safer than the mainland of Honduras, but the crime is still higher than what most U.S. passengers would face at home.  The warning contains specific warning about Roatan:

“Roatan & Bay Islands: Roatan and the Bay Islands experience lower crime rates than the Honduran mainland. While the national government of Honduras, Roatan authorities, and businesses took measures in 2014 to improve tourism security, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur. You should exercise caution, especially at night. If staying at a hotel resort, book tours and sightseeing through the resort or reputable tour companies. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark.

If you are on a shore excursion from a cruise ship, take care to book only with reputable tour companies during your stopover in Honduras. The port agencies at Mahogany Bay and Towne Center have worked to improve taxi service to and from the ports.”

The warning’s refers to 2014 because a NCL crew member was shot and killed near the port that year. The Filipino crew member worked on the Norwegian Pearl. Previously in 2014, a number of tourists, including a mother and her two boys from a Royal Caribbean ship, were robbed at gunpoint while taking a private trip to the beach. Earlier in 2014, a family in a rental car with their three children vacationing on a Carnival cruise ship stopping in Roatan were shot at and robbed.

One of the problems with Honduras is it is a key player in the international drug trade. The warning explains that “transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity.”

Roatan has long been considered one of Honduras’ “narco-islands.”

There have been several instances where crew members from Honduras have been arrested trying to smuggle drugs on cruise ships, like this arrest in Roatan of a NCL crew member from the Norwegian Dream last year. Last year also saw five NCL galley workers from the Norwegian Sun arrested in Tampa when the cruise returned from Roatan where the crew members picked up cocaine. In 2014, police officers in Brazil arrested several Honduran crew members after finding 333 bags of cocaine weighing 100 pounds on the M/S Empress, owned by Royal Caribbean and operated at the time by the Royal Caribbean brand Pullmantur.

Roatan has been home to a notorious list of major drug intermediaries who launder money by purchasing properties on the island. Members of the “Los Cachiros“ drug trafficking ring were arrested and numerous properties in Roatan were seized several years ago.  In 2014, a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias “El Negro, was arrested and millions of dollars in bank accounts and numerous of his properties in Roatan were seized.   Earlier this year, Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo’s’ “Honduras henchman” Franco “The Wizard” Daniel Lombardi, the financial operator of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras, was arrested and many of his properties in Roatan were seized.

The January 2014 New York Times article Security Concerns on a Honduran Island indicates that the U.S. State Department has warned since at least December 2013 that the “level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.”

If you travel or cruise to Roatan, the Times’ article suggests visitors:

  • not to walk alone on the stretch of beach between West Bay and West End;
  • avoid unpaved roads to the beach;
  • avoid Coxen Hole after dark; and
  • stick to the island’s main road unless you’re with a group.

Photo credit: Jim Walker

WFTV-9 (ABC) reports that four women were arrested on charges of smuggling cocaine weighing a little over 6.5 kilograms at Port Canaveral last month after taking a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas.  

The local ABC news station identified Lakisha Abney, Shawnta Aiken, Ciera Bryant and Shenique Milbourne as cruise passengers who departed on a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise last month. When the Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived back at Port Canaveral on May 15, U.S. Customs officials reportedly Falmouth Jamaica Freedom of the Seasdiscovered five vacuum sealed packages of cocaine in Ms. Bryant’ bra and girdle. 

The Customs officials searched Ms. Bryant after noticing that her voice and hands were shaking and she was not making eye contact. The officials then searched Ms. Abney, Ms. Aiken and Ms. Milbourne who Ms. Bryant identified as her traveling companions. The officials reportedly found several vacuum-sealed packages containing cocaine in each of the women’s bras and girdles.

The four women from the Washington D.C. and Maryland area are seen on Facebook posing for what appears to be a fun cruise.

The cruise in question called on Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, George Town Grand Cayman and Cozumel Mexico. WPTV said that "while in Jamaica, the women met a man who gave them the cocaine and the bras and girdle to hide the drugs in." 

In April, WFTV reported that two Royal Caribbean crew members were arrested for smuggling cocaine aboard the Freedom of the Seas into Port Canaveral.

October 20, 2016 Update: One of the four women who pleaded guilty was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Photo credit: Shawnta Aiken Facebook page.

Story and video credit: WFTV-8 (ABC) 

December 15, 2016 Update: A fifth woman has been implicated in the drug smuggling.

The Jamaica Observer reports that yesterday the police in Ocho Rios arrested three crew members aboard an unidentified cruise ship docked at the Ocho Rios Pier with a large quantity of cocaine hidden under their clothes. 

The three men were reportedly from St. Vincent. The newspaper identified the men, Lloyd Thomas (40 years old), Dasrick Moore (age 24) and Kishorn Simon (age 25). 

The newspaper says that the police stopped the three crew members when they were in the process of boarding the cruise ship. All three men reportedly had cocaine hidden in their underwear.

The combined weight of the cocaine reportedly is approximately five pounds. 

Ten days ago, a NCL crew member from St. Vincent, who worked aboard the Norwegian Sun, was sentenced to ten years in prison after he was caught smuggling cocaine from Roatan to Tampa along with five other crew members. 

We have not yet determined which cruise ships the three crew members were working on. 

On Friday, a federal court judge sentenced a former Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) crew member to ten years in prison for his involvement in smuggling drugs from Roatan, Honduras to Tampa, Florida, according to a press release issued by the Department of Justice

Desrick Gordon, age 23, from the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The judge ordered him to forfeit $53,369, which is proceeds of the crime. A jury found Mr. Gordon guilty on December 16, 2015.

As we reported last April, Mr. Gordon and five other NCL crew members from the Norwegian Sun were arrested after they reportedly transported packages filled of cocaine from Roatan, Honduras to the U.S. When the cruise ship docked in Tampa, the crew members handed the drugs to local drug traffickers with ties to the Honduran source.  Federal agents seized 10 packages of cocaine with a total weight of more than 7.5 kilograms. 

The other NCL cruise ship employees, Jason Carmichael, Teffan Delice, Johnson Cherubin, Alfred Ince, and Arkine John, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the case. 

We reported on the initial arrest here – NCL Crew Members Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine from Roatan to Tampa. You can see photo of the crew members here.