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Ship of fools Sailor busted with €1.5 billion of cocaine linked to Kinahan gang 'offered $1m' to smuggle drugs

Lawyers for the pair said they had no choice after being approached by a powerful Balkans drugs gang.

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A CREW member on a ship busted with a gigantic haul of 20 tons of cocaine destined for European drugs gangs including the Kinahan cartel claims to have been offered $1 million to take part in the plot.

As two more men involved in the scheme were jailed in the United States this week, lawyers for the pair said they had no choice after being approached by a powerful Balkans drugs gang.

Nenad Ilic’s attorney said the Montenegrin got two anonymous phone calls telling him to participate and offering him upwards of $1 million for his efforts.

Ilic was jailed for seven years while Ivan Durasevic, the MSC Gayane’s second mate was sentenced to six and a half years.

They feared both for their own safety and for their families at home and were coerced into taking part in the sophisticated drug smuggling operation.

The drugs were hidden onboard giant cargo ship MSC Gayane, destined for the Netherlands, but found in searches in Philadelphia where it had docked in July, 2019.

The €1.5 billion worth of cocaine is the largest in the history of the US Customs and Border Protection agency and accounted for 70 percent rise in cocaine seizures in the country that year.

The men had previously pleaded guilty and are among seven crew members who have now been jailed.

Details of the highly sophisticated smuggling operation emerged during court hearings this year as speedboats delivered the cocaine to ship off the coast of Peru.

Crew members used encrypted phones to make contact with the drugs gang on shore and hid the drugs in various cargo containers.

Durasevic, who said he was offered $200,000, tried to back out and threw his encrypted phone away, but was pressured by other crew members, it was heard.

Prosecutors said that Durasevic, as the ship’s third-ranking officer, was in a key position to ensure that the loading of the drugs in secret went off as planned and to hide the cocaine cache.

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He recruited others on the ship to haul the drugs aboard and hiding them in shipping containers carrying cargo like wine, vegetable extract, dried nuts, scrap metal, and other goods bound for Europe, Africa, and Asia.

At the time of the 2019 seizure in Philadephia Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll told the Sunday World they were liaising with US authorities over the investigations.

The huge load of cocaine had been funded by European crime gangs working together to ship the drugs across the Atlantic.

The US Drugs Enforcement Agency said cocaine seizures in 2019 surged 70% compared to 2018, to 45,241 kilos from 26,585 kilos as a result of the seizure on board the MSC Gayane.

The DEA previously compiled a dossier on the European gangs working together to organise cocaine shipments to Europe.

This included many of Daniel Kinahan’s wedding guests such as Dutch criminal currently on trial in The Netherlands, Ridouan Taghi, and recently convicted Ricardo Riquelme Vega, aka El Rico.

Wedding guests, Italian Camorra boss Raffaele Imperiale and Edin Gacanin, a senior member of the Montenegrin Tito and Dino Cartel, were also named by the DEA as part of the same underworld alliance.

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