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$180 million in cocaine seized from drug sub in Caribbean Sea, Coast Guard says

MIAMI — U.S. authorities intercepted a submarinelike craft carrying roughly $180 million of cocaine off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the Coast Guard said Monday.

Semisubmersible vessels are regularly used to smuggle drugs along Central America's Pacific Coast. U.S. and Honduran authorities said last week's seizure was the first time they had intercepted one of the vessels in Caribbean waters.

With help from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection airplane on patrol, the Coast Guard cutter Seneca found the self-propelled sub on July 13 off Honduras' sparsely populated province of Gracias a Dios, near the Nicaraguan border.

The fiberglass craft sank during the interdiction, though U.S. authorities were able to detain its five-member crew and recover some of the drugs on board, Coast Guard officials in Miami said.

The Coast Guard, FBI dive teams and the Honduran navy made multiple searches for the sunken sub, until the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Oak found it July 26, the Coast Guard said.

An FBI dive team recovered nearly 22,000 pounds of cocaine worth roughly $180 million from the sub, the Coast Guard said.

The drugs and the sub's crew will be turned over to U.S. law enforcement. The case remains under investigation.

Semisubmersible crafts, which partly remain above the surface of the water, are typically built in Colombia and are less than 100 feet in length, U.S. officials said. The vessels can carry four or five crew members and travel distances up to 5,000 miles. They are designed to rapidly sink when detected to make it difficult for law enforcement to recover the drugs aboard.

$180 million in cocaine seized from drug sub in Caribbean Sea, Coast Guard says 08/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 12:36am]
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