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Top boxer latest to be charged over Kinahan-linked $1.5b cocaine seizure in US

US authorities signal they are not finished investigation into Kinahan Cartel-linked drugs bust

MSC Gayane

Daniel Kinahan

Eamon DillonSunday World

Former heavyweight boxer Goran Gogic is the latest person to be arrested over the Kinahan Cartel-linked attempt to smuggle 20 tons of cocaine to Europe.

His arrest earlier this month signalled the US authorities are not yet finished investigating the biggest ever seizure of the drug by the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

The 43-year-old Montenegrin fighter was arrested at Miami International Airport on 31 October on his way to a boxing convention in Puerto Rico which his lawyer said was “a surprise”.

“He wasn’t wanted before. His name was flagged, but he was never wanted before,” said Lawrence A. Hashish.

So far eight people have been jailed - all crew members on board the massive cargo ship MSC Gayane which docked in Philadelphia on route to Europe in 2019.

MSC Gayane

The $1.5 billion cargo had been hidden on the ship after the drugs were loaded onto the ship at sea near the coast of Peru.

Gogic has been charged with three counts of violating the federal Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, and one count of conspiracy and faces a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence and up to life in prison.

He is accused of orchestrating the operation by coordinating with crew members, Colombian traffickers and European dockworkers.

Prosecutors allege that Gogic and others used "meticulous planning" to transport cocaine to Europe from Colombia through US ports, using commercial cargo ships.

"Members of the conspiracy loaded the commercial cargo ships at night near the coast and ports, working with crew members who would hoist loads of cocaine from speedboats that approached the ships at multiple points along their route," stated prosecutors.

The defendants allegedly loaded the drugs using nets and the ship's cranes. Once the cocaine was onboard, the crew would hide it within shipping containers.

The complex operation involved having access to each ship's crew, route, real-time positioning and geolocation data, said prosecutors.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace called Gogic's arrest and indictment a "body blow to the organisation and individuals responsible for distributing massive quantities of cocaine."

The indictment show the charges against Gogic are not confined to just the seizure made on board the MSC Gayane.

Daniel Kinahan

The international drug conspiracy relied on another set of port workers to “clandestinely access and remove the cocaine from the shipping containers” in Europe said prosecutors.

They added “significant amounts of cocaine” were seized at ports in Panama, Peru and the Netherlands, as well as in other countries.

In April this year the US Department of Justice announced a $5 million reward for Christy Kinahan sr and his two sons Daniel and Christy jr.

The US Ambassador to Ireland, Clare Cronin, announced the bounty on the Kinahans at a specially convened news conference in Dublin last April.

A high-powered delegation also revealed how members of the gang had also been placed on the US sanctions list.

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said: “The Kinahan Organised Crime Group smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering.

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

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

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