Marshall Islands police confiscate record cocaine haul

BY GIFF JOHNSON - FOR VARIETY 16 DECEMBER 2020

MAJURO — Marshall Islands police incinerated over 1,400 pounds of cocaine in Majuro Tuesday after the cache of drugs drifted into a remote atoll in this western Pacific nation last week.
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Marshall Islands Police Capt. Eric Jorban, left, empties a bag of one-kilo packages of cocaine into an incinerator in Majuro, Tuesday. This was part of a 649-kilo shipment of cocaine destroyed by law enforcement officials in Majuro. Photo by Giff Johnson.

Police said it is the largest volume of cocaine to ever wash into the Marshall Islands, which has seen hundreds of kilos of cocaine wash into multiple islands over the past two decades.

“A local resident on Ailuk discovered a boat with 649 one-kilogram bricks of cocaine,” said Attorney General Richard Hickson, who praised community members at Ailuk for immediately calling the drug discovery into law enforcement authorities.

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This 18-foot fiberglass boat washed up on Ailuk Atoll, a remote atoll with about 400 people, in the Marshall Islands last week with 649 kilos (1,340 pounds) of cocaine sealed in its hold under the deck. Marshall Islands Police Department photo

Sometimes, cocaine wash-ups on remote islands are not reported and instead people filter the drugs into Majuro for sale to the urban population. The arrest and subsequent conviction earlier this year of an Ailuk man who attempted to transport three kilos of cocaine from the northern atoll to Majuro on an Air Marshall Islands flight confirmed for authorities that more drugs washed in at Ailuk, possibly over a year ago.

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Marshall Islands police load a box filled with one-kilo "bricks" of cocaine into a police pickup truck from a patrol vessel that transported the cocaine from a remote outer atoll to Majuro for confiscation and destruction. Photo by Giff Johnson.

Hickson said the latest haul of cocaine was not related to the earlier prosecution of the drug courier from Ailuk. “This is a new lot of cocaine, just arrived,” he added.

Ailuk resident Kosby Alfred last week discovered a boat that washed up on Ailuk. The atoll is 244 miles north of the capital Majuro with a population of about 400 people. When islanders could not lift the boat out of the water onto the beach, they investigated to find out why the fiberglass boat was so heavy. They discovered a large compartment under the deck that had been sealed to hide hundreds of one-kilo “bricks” of cocaine wrapped in plastic and stamped with the initials “KW,” said Marshall Islands Police Department’s Criminal Investigation chief Captain Vincent Tani.

The 18-foot boat contained 649 one-kilo packages (1,431 pounds), said Tani.

The fiberglass boat discovered at Ailuk was similar to two other boats carrying plastic wrapped kilo packages of cocaine that washed ashore in two different atolls several years ago, said Tani. “All three boats had three stars on them,” he said. Aside from the stars, each boat had a different marking. The boat found at Ailuk last week had a variation of the Nike “swoosh” painted on its side. One of the earlier boats had a dolphin, said Tani.

Tani and Hickson believe the boat drifted into the Marshall Islands from South or Central America. “It could have been drifting for a year or two,” said Hickson.

https://www.mvariety.com/cnmi-local/73-local/8273-marshall-islands-police-confiscate-record-cocaine-haul

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