Smuggler Ships To Be Sunk

Thursday, June 07, 2001
They were linchpins in the international narcotics trade and soon they will swim with the fishes. Three cargo ships used to smuggle nearly $8 million worth of cocaine will be sent to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Miami as artificial reefs for fishers and divers, the U.S. Customs Service said. Dozens of old ships -- and a variety of other junk -- have been sunk deliberately by authorities as artificial reefs in Florida coastal waters. The man-made debris attracts marine growth and provides shelter for fish and other sea critters. The agency seized the ships after finding drugs on board earlier this year and turned them over to Miami-Dade County. Customs inspectors found 186 pounds (84 kgs) of cocaine in a false wall on the Etoile de Mer on Jan. 18, The drugs were valued at $1.5 million on the wholesale market. The following day they discovered 614 pounds (279 kgs) of cocaine worth $5.1 million on the Tacoma, in a false compartment beneath a fuel tank. On Feb. 27, the Miguana was seized when Customs agents found 125 pounds (57 kgs) of cocaine worth $1.1 million inside two propane tanks. "The U.S. Customs Service decided to turn something bad -- ships loaded with cocaine -- into something good, an artificial reef for the whole community," the agency said in a statement. - (Reuters)

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