Drug-Smuggling Submarine Seized as Puerto Rico Busts Accelerate

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The U.S. Department of Justice in Puerto Rico said Monday that authorities had made a record-breaking cocaine bust after officials seized a submarine in Caribbean waters.

Officials captured a 52-foot (15.8 meter) long, 8-foot-wide semi-submersible carrying 2,500 kilograms (5,512 pounds) of cocaine worth about $75 million, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Stephen Muldrow said at a press conference.

The vessel had allegedly left Colombia’s northern coast with the goal of unloading its cargo in Puerto Rico. The submersible and three Colombian crewmen were detained by the U.S. Coast Guard about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of South America on April 8 and the men were indicted April 14. But the Department of Justice announced the bust Monday.

Semi-submersible and fully-submersible drug-trafficking vessels are captured off the Pacific Coast of Central America frequently, but it’s unusual for such a craft to be intercepted in the Caribbean, Muldrow said.

It’s too soon to tell if the submarine represents a new smuggling tactic in the region.

“Only time will tell,” he said. “These things are very hard to find, very hard to detect and very costly to construct.”

Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. jurisdiction it’s seen as “an ideal objective” for drug trafficking groups that want to ship their profits home in U.S. dollars, Muldrow said.

Since October, the U.S. Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, as the law enforcement group is known, has seized 17,000 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $510 million off the coasts of the U.S. territory, a figure the Department of Justice says “significantly outpaced” the previous two fiscal years.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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