March 22, 2004 – A Venezuelan-registered sailboat that was stopped at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and found to be carrying 400 pounds of cocaine was docked at St. Croix on Monday, its crew and cargo turned over to U.S. Customs enforcement agents, according to Coast Guard officials.
The boat was interdicted last Wednesday by a Coast Guard detachment aboard the Dutch warship Van Galen about 200 miles northwest of Grenada, Coast Guard spokesman Eric Willis said. According to Willis, the four Bulgarians aboard the 47-foot sailboat said they had recently purchased the vessel in Venezuela and were taking it to Bulgaria.
U.S. authorities have not released any further identification of the crew members.
Coast Guard officials initially reported the bust had netted more than790 pounds of cocaine; Willis said that figure was reduced because authorities could not say how much of the drug cargo was jettisoned before arrests were made.
Coast Guard records show that in the year from Oct. 1, 2002, to Sept. 30, 2003, the Coast Guard was involved in the seizure of 136,865 pounds of cocaine and the arrest 283 persons accused of drug smuggling. Last November, Willis said, authorities seized 3,086 pounds of the substance found off Colombia aboard a sailboat similar to that of the Bulgarians.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.