MSC Gayanè crew member pleads guilty to drugs smuggling charge

A crew member of container ship MSC Gayanè (IMO 9770763) has pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggled cocaine into the US. On June 17th the US Customs & Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led a multi-agency team that detected anomalies in seven shipping containers. They extracted 39,525lb of cocaine

US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William M McSwain said late last week that Montenegro national Aleksandar Kavaja, 27 had pleaded guilty before US District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III to charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5kg or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the US.

On June 17th 2019, federal, state, and local law enforcement agents boarded containership MSC Gayanè when it arrived at Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia and seized 19.76 tons of cocaine.

The ship was seized and was held until the owner, a subsidiary of JP Morgan, and operator, Mediterranean Shipping Company, put up $10m in cash and a $40m surety bond to secure its temporary release.

In June this year another crew member, Vladimir Penda, 27, also a Montenegro national, entered a plea of guilty to a similar charge.

The Department of Justice says that Kavaja, who worked on board the MSC Gayanè as the ship’s electrician, conspired with others to engage in bulk cocaine smuggling. On multiple occasions during the MSC Gayanè’s voyage, crew members, including Kavaja, helped load significant quantities of cocaine onto the ship from speedboats that approached under cover of darkness. Crew members used the Gayanè’s crane to hoist cargo nets full of packaged cocaine onto the vessel and then stashed the drugs in various shipping containers.

Kavaja faces a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment.

2018-built, Liberia-flagged, 102,492 gt MSC Gayanè is owned by Meridian 7 Ltd (a private limited company that was incorporated in Bermuda in August 2017) care of manager MSC Mediterranean Ship Co of Geneva, Switzerland. It is entered with UK Club on behalf of Conglomerate Maritime Ltd (a privately owned Swiss company registered in Guernsey in 2000).