Acting on intelligence received Monday morning, Joint Task Force officers seized 40 kilograms of suspected cocaine from Port Purcell on Monday, temporarily halting operations. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning. (File photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

Port Purcell operations were temporarily suspended Monday after Joint Task Force officers seized 40 kilograms of suspected cocaine hidden amongst animal feed, JTF Chairman Wade Smith said Wednesday.

Though no arrests had been made in relation to the seizure, officers in the “joint intelligence unit” were working with police to “conduct investigations,” said Mr. Smith, who is also the customs commissioner.

The operation began Monday morning, when customs officers received and verified “intelligence,” Mr. Smith said.

Officers in the Customs Enforcement Unit were then deployed, and upon detecting the shipment they called in officers from other departments of the JTF for additional support, Mr. Smith said. Mr. Smith stressed the collaborative nature of the operation.

“What you saw was a collaboration of all agencies: customs, ports authority, police, immigration,” he said.

Mr. Smith added that once the operation concluded, “Everything was back in full swing within a two-hour period.”

Testing to determine whether the recovered substance was in fact cocaine concluded on Tuesday, but as of his interview Wednesday morning Mr. Smith said that he had not yet received the results from that test.

Police Information Officer Diane Drayton declined to comment on Tuesday, directing this reporter to customs instead.

Previous operations

At 40 kilos — a little heavier than the average newborn calf — Monday’s shipment pales in comparison to other recent seizures, including some that have led to the arrest of police officers and other government employees.

Less than three weeks ago, on Aug. 27, United States Coast Guard agents recovered roughly 1,700 kilograms valued at some $51 million off the coast of Anegada, according to a Sept. 3 USCG press release.

After jettisoning at least 57 bales into the water while being pursued by a USCG ship and aircraft, the passengers aboard the go-fast vessel sped off and escaped capture, the USCG stated. No arrests have been reported in the matter.

On the night of April 11, US and Virgin Islands law enforcement officers chased a boat from US waters onto a Tortola beach, and officers confiscated a 453-kilogram stash of cocaine they said was worth $45 million.

At least one person was arrested and charged with importation of a controlled drug, possession of a controlled drug, and being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug to another.

On Jan. 19, 259 more kilograms of cocaine were seized following a police operation in Brandywine Bay, and at least four people have been arrested and charged in relation to that matter.

Record bust

But the bust that has had the biggest effect on the territory was the 2.3 tonnes of cocaine allegedly seized from the Balsam Ghut property of police officer Darren Davis in November 2020.

Mr. Davis and his brother, Liston Davis, were charged with three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to supply and keeping an unlicensed firearm.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Former Governor Gus Jaspert cited the $250 million seizure — which weighed roughly the same as an adult white rhinoceros or 67 newborn calves — as a reason for opening the Commission of Inquiry.

At least one other police officer, Emile Jimenez, was arrested in relation to the operation.

During his December hearing at Magistrates’ Court, prosecutors alleged Mr. Jimenez visited the property with Mr. Davis the afternoon of the raid, and showed up late for his shift at the West End Police Station.

He pleaded not guilty to the gun and drug charges against him and received a bail offer of $375,000 with two signed sureties.