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Ship and suspects in major cocaine bust arrive at San Diego

cocaine
More than 23,000 pounds of cocaine were seized during what officials said is the largest maritime bust in history  


SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- U.S. officials seized more than 23,000 pounds of cocaine hidden in the fuel tanks of an old fishing boat now impounded at the Navy docks in San Diego, Coast Guard officials in Washington and San Diego said Monday.

Ten suspects, believed to be from Russia and the Ukraine, are in custody, a Coast Guard official in San Diego told CNN. It represents one of one of the largest maritime drug busts in history, both in raw size and in street value, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Spokeswoman Petty Officer Jamie Devitt-Chacon said the U.S. Attorney's office would reveal the identities of the suspects and the nature of the charges at an afternoon news conference in San Diego.

A Navy ship in April had begun monitoring the vessel's movements as the 150-foot trawler -- the Svesda Maru -- traveled north from a position in international waters of the Pacific Ocean about 1,500 miles south of San Diego.

One official speaking on condition of anonymity told CNN the trawler appeared to be on a track toward Mexico.

Suspecting the boat may have been involved with drug smuggling, the official said American authorities boarded the vessel April 28 and spent about five days looking for contraband.

Some 12 tons of cocaine were eventually found in the ship's fuel tanks after a U.S. Coast Guard structural engineer performed "soundings" of various cavities in the vessel.

The 10-member crew was taken off the trawler and held. The ship was towed to San Diego, arriving Sunday, according to an official who is closely involved with those who made the interception.

On March 6, the Coast Guard seized a ship called Forever My Friends in the same region with 8 tons of cocaine on board and arrested ten suspects of Russian origin.








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