Two speedboats on their way to deliver huge shipments of drugs to the United States were stopped short by U.S. Customs patrols this past Memorial Day weekend, and their combined cargo came to an astounding 13,000 pounds of cocaine.
That’s about $1 billion worth, if you’re keeping track.
The first interception came on Friday when an airborne Jacksonville, Florida-based Customs and Border Protection crew spotted a speedboat north of the Galapagos Islands, west of the country of Ecuador, in the Pacific Ocean.
Crewmen on the 30-foot boat began to throw the goods overboard once they’d been spotted and officials and began ‘washing the boat to eliminate traces of cocaine,’ according to an official release.
A customs helicopter was called to intercept the vessel and shots were fired, disabling the boat and its passengers, who were taken into custody.
Around 7,000 pounds of cocaine were on the boat, worth about $500 million.
Then, on Saturday, another boat was spotted, this time on the Caribbean side near the border of Panama and Columbia.
The driver attempted to hide the three-engine boat, weaving in and around shoals at the shore.
To intercept, the Corpus Christie, Texas-based Customs and Border Protection officers contacted the Panamanian authorities, who apprehended the boat and its crew.
The second boat was carrying 1,000 bundles of cocaine weighing around 6,000 pounds.
Estimates put the worth of the May 25 haul at $445 million.
Both sightings were made by crews flying so-called CBP P3 aircraft, a Lockheed manufactured long-range tracker plane.
‘These disruptions are indicative of how successful a counter-narcotic asset the CBP P-3 program is,’ said Tom Salter, CBP Director of National Air Security Operations in Corpus Christi. ‘It’s the right asset to support the Joint Interagency Task Force – South in its efforts to disrupt the transport of illegal narcotics to the U.S.’
According to the release, the airborne fleet seized or disrupted more than 117,765 pounds of cocaine, valued at over $8.8 billion, in fiscal year 2012.
The aircraft patrol a 42 million square mile area of the Western Caribbean and Easter Pacific in search of drugs in transit toward U.S. shores.