By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: Liberian officials have a good catch, it is the country's largest ever drug seizure. Officials found 2.6 tons of cocaine hidden in barrels after intercepting a ship off the Liberian coast.
The crew of a French naval vessel saw people on board the ship, the Blue Atlantic, throwing barrels overboard when they went to intercept it late Thursday.
The ship was towed to port and authorities eventually recovered 92 barrels from the ship and the sea containing a total of 2.65 tons of cocaine.
"It's huge. If this had hit the Liberian market, it would have destroyed the entire country," Monrovia Port Security Chief Ashford Pearl said.
With cocaine prices in Europe now double those in the United States, drug smugglers in South America are increasingly ferrying cocaine to West Africa, from where it is parceled out to hundreds of individual traffickers who carry it north, especially via Spain.
Wholesale prices for the drug are 18,000 dollars per pound in Spain and almost 32,000 dollars per pound in Norway, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. At those rates, the estimated wholesale value of the haul would be 95 million dollars in Spain and 169 million dollars in Norway.
Pearl said the nine members of the crew of the Blue Atlantic were Ghanaian. They have been turned over to Liberian police.
"It wasn't in Liberian waters, but they towed it to Liberia because the ship was flying the flag of Liberia," said Pearl.
Authorities in Liberia are not sure what to do with the drugs seized. Pearl said officials were debating burning or dumping the drugs in the water "but we are leaning closer to burning because it will have some environmental effects if we put it into the water."