U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers alongside Coast Guard personnel offload cocaine from the Coast Guard Cutter James, Tuesday, March 28, 2016, at Port Everglades inFort Lauderdale, Fla. The drugs were seized along Central and South America by the U.S. Coast Guard and the HMCS Saskatoon, which joined the operation in February. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Canadian ship involved in cocaine bust

Seizure of more than 14 tonnes of cocaine

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Royal Canadian Navy vessel was involved in an international anti-drug trafficking mission that led to the seizure of more than 14 tonnes of cocaine in international waters along the coasts of Central and South America.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday that the drugs were seized in 17 different raids over a period of 26 days.

“When smugglers are racing across the Caribbean or the Pacific, they are not just carrying cocaine, they are delivering violence, corruption and instability to a part of the world — the Western Hemisphere — that just can’t absorb it,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Feder told a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“(It’s) a part of the world that already has eight of the 10 most homicidal nations in it,” he said.

HMCS Saskatoon, based at CFB Esquimalt in British Columbia, and a U.S. vessel — Guard LEDET 405 — were involved in one of the raids where about a tonne of cocaine was seized.

The Canadian vessel joined the U.S.-led multinational operation in February, which is aimed at intercepting illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Feder said 30 suspected drug smugglers were detained during the operation, adding that they will be questioned and possibly prosecuted in the U.S.

The cocaine was being offloaded at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades on Tuesday.

Feder said the drug bust shows how “we need to work with our interagency partners as well as our allies to deter this threat and keep it as far from our shores as possible.”

It is not the first time HMCS Saskatoon is involved in a U.S.-led anti-trafficking operation.

On March 19, 2016, the vessel was involved in the seizure of about 360 kilograms of cocaine dumped in the water by a fishing boat before it fled the scene, according to the navy.

“By preventing the flow of illicit drugs and denying unlawful access to the sea, our sailors are effectively interrupting a major funding source for organized crime,” Lt.-Cmdr. Todd Bacon, Commanding Officer of HMCS Saskatoon, said earlier this month.

— By Daniela Germano in Toronto with files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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