By CHRISTOPHER BRITO, JASON SILVERSTEIN
A cargo ship that was seized last month with nearly 20 tons of cocaine on board — with an estimated street value of $1.3 billion — belongs to JP Morgan Chase, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CBS News. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said this was the largest vessel ever seized in the agency’s 230-year history.
The ship, the MSC Gayane, is owned by JP Morgan Asset Management clients through a transportation fund managed by the bank, a source said. JP Morgan leased the ship to Mediterranean Shipping Co., a Switzerland-based shipping company, which is solely responsible for the vessel’s crews and operations.
JP Morgan Chase declined to comment on the record. Mediterranean Shipping Co. said in a statement, “Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems.” The shipping company said it is cooperating with U.S. law enforcement on the investigation. Neither JP Morgan Chase nor MSC are targets of the criminal investigation.
The U.S. Justice Department said agents boarded the ship on June 17 after it arrived at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, and seized 19.76 tons of cocaine. On the Fourth on July, CBP seized the ship itself for possible forfeiture to the U.S.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented — but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said in a statement.
The ship, which was built in 2018 and flew under the flag of Liberia, had traveled through South America and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia, according to Marine Traffic.
Several crew members on the ship have been charged with knowingly and intentionally conspiring with each other and others to possess cocaine, the Justice Department said. A federal criminal investigation is ongoing.