$50 million drug bust

The crew of the Miami-based Coast Guard cutter Richard Etheridge crew offloaded approximately 3,750 pounds of seized cocaine Friday at Coast Guard Base San Juan that was recovered from a go-fast vessel near Anegada. The cocaine has an estimated wholesale value of approximately $50 million. Page 6

U.S. Coast Guard and British Virgin Islands authorities seized nearly 4,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $50 million from a go-fast vessel near Anegada last week.

The seizure comes nearly a year since BVI authorities seized a little more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine in BVI waters worth $250 million. A member of the Royal Virgin Islands Police force and a family member were arrested in connection with the bust that the BVI governor at the time said was the largest in the territory’s history.

The latest seizure, last Friday, came after “routine patrol” at night, according to a statement from the U.S. Coast Guard.

On Aug. 27, the Coast Guard cutter Richard Etheridge responded to the sighting of a suspect go-fast vessel in waters northeast of the British Virgin Islands and “Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan directed the launch of a Coast Guard MH-60T aircraft from Air Station Borinquen to vector cutter Richard Etheridge to the go-fast vessel’s position.

“Additionally, Coast Guard and British Virgin Islands authorities maintained communication to interdict the suspect go-fast vessel,” the released stated, adding that as the cutter closed in on the vessel, “the smugglers proceeded to jettison their cargo and flee the area at high speed.”

A Coast Guard helicopter crew assisted the cutter in locating the cargo dumped overboard, and “in total, the crew of cutter Richard Etheridge recovered 57 bales, which tested positive for cocaine,” according to the release.

Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Magee, Sector San Juan commander, praised the BVI partnership that resulted in the seizure.

“Despite the challenging sea state conditions and thanks to the close collaboration and coordination with our Royal Virgin Islands Police partners, our crews did an outstanding job in disrupting a major shipment of cocaine and keeping it from ever reaching the streets,” he said. “Our strong partnerships, as in the case of the British Virgin Islands and island nations throughout our area of responsibility, are key to achieving safe and secure maritime borders from drug trafficking and other smuggling threats in the Eastern Caribbean.”

Detective Inspector Mike Jones, head of Intelligence for the Royal Virgin Islands Police, also weighed in, noting in the prepared statement that “this is a great example of the close working relationship between the U.S. and the UK overseas territories.

“The excellent work of the U.S. Coast Guard forced the crew of the go-fast vessel to jettison their cargo,” he said. “We will continue to work closely with all agencies and partners in order to disrupt and detect the movement of narcotics, illegal money and people trafficking.”

In November, a member of Royal Virgin Islands Police and his brother were arrested following the seizure of more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine. Veteran police officer Darren Davis, 41, and his brother, Liston Davis, 40, both were charged.

At the time of the seizure last November, Gov. Augustus Jaspert said during a press briefing that “the quantity of cocaine seized is the largest in the British Virgin Islands history, 2,353 kilos, with an estimated street value of around $250 million.”

“To put that into context, the value of the seizure equates to around 75% of our entire national budget in the BVI,” Jaspert said then.

The outcome of the case involving officer Davis and his brother was not immediately known on Friday.