Montenegrin lynchpin apprehended in MSC cocaine case

The ongoing fallout from Mediterranean Shipping Co’s cocaine shipments involving Montenegrin mafia continue to make spectacular headlines.

An indictment was unsealed yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn charging Goran Gogic, 43, with one count of conspiracy to violate the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act and three counts of violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. Gogic, a citizen of Montenegro, and a former heavyweight boxer, was arrested on Sunday as he attempted to board an international flight from Miami International Airport.

He is believed to be one of the masterminds behind a string of cocaine shipments from South America, including three busts by American authorities on boxships operated by MSC, including the 2019 18 ton haul found on the MSC Gayane at the port of Philadelphia.

“The arrest and indictment of Gogic, a former boxer allegedly responsible for trafficking a staggering amount of cocaine, more than 20 tons, which he attempted to move through US ports, is a resounding victory for law enforcement,” stated United States attorney Breon Peace. “The meticulous planning by the defendant and his co-conspirators failed to take into account the federal agents whose hard work resulted in this body blow to the organisation and individuals responsible for distributing massive quantities of cocaine.”

“Gogic, as alleged, is a major drug trafficker who, along with his criminal associates, is responsible for overseeing long-range narcotics transportation on containerships as well as the wholesale distribution of cocaine throughout Europe. Today’s arrest sends a message to narcotraffickers worldwide that they are not free to hijack international maritime commerce with impunity,” stated Ivan Arvelo, special agent-in-charge at Homeland Security Investigations.

MSC saw its Customs Trade Partnership (C-TPAT) certification suspended in the US following the series of drugs busts on its ships, which also involved a number of seafarers from Montenegro.

“A billion dollars’ worth of cocaine seized was a heavy hit for Gogic’s criminal network, but nothing heavier than his arrest last night,” said Frank Tarentino, special agent-in-charge at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The case against Gogic states that his team loaded drugs onto MSC ships at night near the coast and ports, working with crewmembers who would hoist loads of cocaine from speedboats that approached the ships at multiple points along their route. To physically load the cocaine aboard, they used the ship’s cranes as well as nets. Once the cocaine was onboard, the crewmembers would hide it within specific shipping containers that they knew had sufficient room to conceal the large quantities of cocaine and for which they had duplicate counterfeit seals. They selected the specific containers to be used to conceal the cocaine based, in part, on the containers’ location and orientation, and route and destination onboard the vessel.

If convicted, Gogic faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to life in prison. Born in Pljevlja, Montenegro, Gogic boxed for Germany. During his 11-year-long career, he recorded 21 wins, four losses and two draws. He ended his career in 2012.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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