A former heavyweight boxer has been charged by the US Department of Justice with trafficking 22 tonnes of cocaine worth over $1bn (£870m), most of which was part of one of the largest cocaine seizures in American history.
Goran Gogic, from Montenegro, was arrested on Sunday night while trying to board a flight to Zurich from Miami International Airport, after being indicted by a grand jury in New York.
Prosecutors charged the 43-year-old with three counts of violating the federal Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, and one count of conspiracy.
Each count carries a mandatory minimum 10-year prison term and possible life sentence.
The charges stem from the seizures of 19,930kg (22 tonnes) of cocaine from three commercial cargo ships in 2019,
including 17,956kg (19.8 tonnes) from the MSC Gayane while it was docked at Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal.
Prosecutors said the conspirators transported cocaine to Europe from Colombia through American ports, using cranes and nets at night to hoist drugs on to cargo ships from approaching speedboats along the ships’ routes.
The complex operation required knowledge of each ship’s crew, route and location data, and that there was room to store drugs in shipping containers that were already aboard, prosecutors said.
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According to court papers, Gogic oversaw the logistics, co-ordinating with crew members, Colombian traffickers and European dockworkers to benefit himself and his Balkan-based cartels.
Lawrence Hashish, the lawyer for Gogic, said: “These charges came as a surprise to him. He maintains his innocence, and had come to the US for a boxing convention in Puerto Rico.”
At least eight Gayane crew members have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.
According to online records, Gogic was a boxer from 2001 to 2012, winning 21 bouts and losing four with two draws.