Indian Court Sets $12 Million Bond for Release of Cocaine Smuggling Ship

More than two months after detaining a Vietnamese-owned bulker and its crew in one of India’s largest cocaine seizures, a court has set terms for the release of the ship. The Debi (37,196 dwt) has been held along with its crew of 21 Vietnamese citizens approximately three miles off Paradip Port in northeast India since early December when the drugs were discovered despite reports of depression and frustration among the crew. The court has ordered the ship owner to post a $12 million bond and provide a $1.2 million bank guarantee before the vessel is released. Earlier reports were that the crew was living aboard the ship waiting for the court. The Indian customs authority had initially detained the crew for interviews after they discovered 22 kg of cocaine with a street value of $26 million hidden aboard the bulker. The media had written that the Indian authorities confiscated the crew’s cellphones and computers leaving them virtually isolated and unable to contact family at home in Vietnam. The vessel’s third engineer jumped into the harbor and was taken to a hospital with injuries to his hand. Media reports called it a possible suicide attempt. The initial investigation indicated that the cocaine was intercepted with India not the intended destination. The authorities believed it was going to be removed from the ship only when it reached Europe.
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In early December, the Vietnamese-owned bulker Debi and its crew were detained in India after 22 kg of cocaine, valued at $26 million, was discovered hidden aboard the ship. The crew of 21 Vietnamese citizens has been living aboard the ship, facing depression and frustration, as they awaited the court’s decision. The Indian district court has now set stringent terms for the release of the vessel, including a $12 million bond and a $1.2 million bank guarantee to be provided by the ship owner.

The crew had been detained for interviews by Indian customs authorities, but it was reported that they were being cleared of involvement in the smuggling. The crew’s cellphones and computers were confiscated, leaving them isolated and unable to contact their families in Vietnam. In mid-January, an altercation aboard the ship resulted in the vessel’s third engineer jumping into the harbor, possibly as a suicide attempt.

The 611-foot bulker, registered in Panama, had arrived in India from Indonesia and was scheduled to make a port stop on its way to Denmark. The cocaine was discovered attached to one of the vessel’s cranes, with authorities believing that India was not the intended destination for the drugs. It was suspected that the cocaine was to be removed from the ship when it reached Europe.

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