Cocaine and ganja worth millions washes up with driftwood
Several million dollars worth of cocaine and ganja have washed up on Cayman’s beaches over the past two-and-a-half years.
Drugs have been found washed ashore on 26 occasions since January 2013. In total, 60 kilos (130 pounds) of cocaine and 90 kilos (200 pounds) of marijuana have been found and turned in to police.
Traffickers using the Caribbean Sea as a transit route from South and Central America to lucrative U.S. markets are thought to be responsible for the bulk of the lost contraband.
Estimates of the street value of both cocaine and marijuana vary wildly. The U.S. Coast Guard, in its most recent estimates, uses $30,000 per kilo as the wholesale value for cocaine, estimating that the price triples by the time it is sold on the streets. By that formula, the 60 kilos of cocaine that washed up on Cayman’s beaches in the last 28 months could be worth as much as US$5 million.
A total of 90 kilos of ganja, thought to be worth around US$200,000, has also been found on Cayman’s beaches.
The statistics provide a glimpse of the extent of international drug trafficking taking place in and around Cayman’s territorial waters. The island, because of its location in the western Caribbean Sea, has a ringside seat in the cat-and-mouse battle between drug smugglers and U.S. authorities.
The drugs that wash up on these shores could have been ditched by traffickers attempting to flee U.S. Coast Guard boats, according to detectives in the Cayman Islands.
A bag containing 23 kilos (50 pounds) of cocaine washed up on a beach in East End this month. Police believe the drugs were likely not intended for these shores, though they have not ruled it out.
Detective Superintendent Robert Scotland said the northwest Caribbean is a known route for drug traffickers. He said they sometimes used low-flying aircraft to drop shipments at sea, relying on boats to use GPS to pick them up.
Some of the drugs that wash up in Cayman could be from such air-to-sea shipments that miss the drop-zone, he told the Cayman Compass last week.
The U.S. Coast Guard has reported an emerging trend in the past few years, of traffickers using submarines to evade detection.
The agency’s most recent statistics for drug seizures in the Caribbean Sea suggest that more than 42,500 kilograms of cocaine were removed from the waters of the central and eastern Caribbean shipping routes between October 2011 and April last year. Such a quantity could have a “street” value in the billions.
According to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service figures, a total of 29 kilos (64 pounds) of cocaine was removed from beaches in three incidents in Cayman in 2013, 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) washed up in five separate incidents in 2014, and so far in 2015, the haul of 23 kilos of cocaine found on an East End beach this month is the only incident of that type reported to police.
A total of 68 kilos (150 pounds) of ganja washed ashore in 13 incidents in 2013, 22 kilos (49 pounds) washed up in three incidents in 2014, and just over a kilo (2.5 pounds) has been found in a single incident this year.