Cocaine seized from vessel entering B.C. waters after international trip

Close to 17 kilograms of what is believed to be cocaine was seized from a commercial vessel near Victoria in June, authorities announced Tuesday.

The vessel was at Constance Bank anchorage June 2 when it was boarded by members of the Canadian Border Services Agency. Officers found 11 individually wrapped packages in the engine room, and a field test of the contents was done.

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A total of 16.84 kg of suspected cocaine valued at $875,000 was identified.

Testing has not been finalized.

Cpl. Daniel Michaud, spokesman for Federal Serious and Organized Crime, said crew members on the vessel had come across the packages and alerted the CBSA.

The CBSA continued its examination of the vessel June 3 in collaboration with the RCMP Dive Team. Divers found evidence of tampering under the waterline that suggested there had been more drugs onboard that had been removed.

No more narcotics were found on the ship.

The CBSA and RCMP said the ship had been on legitimate business and had travelled to South America, Europe, the Caribbean and the Unites States before reaching B.C. waters.

There have been no arrests or charges.

“The RCMP and CBSA are keeping up with concealment methods for illicit contraband, continually adapting to new trends,” said Supt. Bert Ferreira, officer in charge of the B.C. RCMP Border Integrity Program. He said the agencies team up to gather intelligence “so we can keep disrupting the activities of organized-crime groups.”

Nina Patel, acting regional director general for the CBSA’s Pacific Region, also touted the groups’ co-operation. “Any drug seizure, small or large, is significant and keeps our communities safe.”

The seizure was small compared to others in Island waters.

In 2001, American officials stopped the boat of John (Philip) Stirling in Juan de Fuca Strait with 2.5 tonnes of cocaine aboard. He and four others on the boat were never charged.

In May, the Metchosin resident was sentenced to 40 months in U.S. federal prison for smuggling methamphetamine on a sailboat off the Oregon coast.

He had previously served seven years in the U.S. for cocaine smuggling.

In 2017, a Vancouver Island man was arrested by the RCMP when he docked in Victoria on a boat where 55 kilograms of cocaine, 47 kilograms of crystal methamphatamine and a kilogram of heroin were found.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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