Koreans Intercept 100KG of Cocaine Hidden in Sea Chest of Cargo Ship
South Korean police and the Coast Guard believe they accidentally intercepted a large international cocaine shipping last month in the New Port at Busan. They put the seizure on display on February 8 saying that they had caught 100 kg of cocaine valued at approximately $246 million, but they believe it was not bound for Korea but instead a third country noting the vessel was bound to China and then possibly to Europe.
They declined to identify the vessel or its owners speculating that it was a victim in the scheme by South or Central American drug cartels. In a lucky find, investigators have been able to isolate DNA samples and fingerprints from the inner package of the shipment. Testing confirmed it was not from the Korean or Filipino crew aboard the vessel.
In addition, the authorities detained the 11 Koreans and 12 Filipinos working aboard the vessel for questioning. They also fingerprinted the crewmembers and conducted drug tests and digital forensic analysis of their cell phones. Nothing linked any of the crewmembers to the smuggling.
The analysis led the authorities to conclude that this was another example of an increasingly popular smuggling technique they called the “parasite method,” where the drugs are concealed in this case in a sea chest for later retrieval at an international destination. They cited information from the United Nationals and internal law enforcement saying this is a growing method used by the cartels.
Provided by Namhae Coast Guard
The vessel was reported to be a 70,000 ton cargo ship operating regularly between South America and Asia and owned by a Korean company. The vessel departed Brazil at the beginning of December and then passed through Singapore and Hong Kong before arriving in Busan, South Korea on January 15.
Officials said during an inspection in the port, a member of the team happened to notice loose and missing screws passing by the sea chest. Obtaining a warrant, they searched the vessel retrieving 100 bricks each weighing 1 kg that were concealed in five bags that were wrapped in multiple layers of waterproof rubber and vinyl. Police also found eight tracking devices.
The investigation is ongoing with police reporting that a private driver had been hired in Brazil. They are reviewing who might have come in contact with the vessel believing the cocaine was hidden aboard before it departed Brazil. They are also trying to determine where the drugs were to have been offloaded.
Putting the size of the seizure in perspective, the authorities said it was enough to give the 3.3. million people in Busan each a single dose of cocaine. Media reports however highlighted that in 2021 a 400 kg shipment of cocaine was also discovered on a passing ship in Busan.