Local March 28, 2013 | 7:16 am

Record drug haul off Saona island

Santo Domingo.- A cocaine shipmentwith an estimated value of US$22 million was intercepted by the National DrugControl Department (DNCD) early Wednesday morning off the coast of SaonaIsland. The 1,638 packages weighing 1,909 kilograms were found on a fast launchand represent the largest haul so far this year, according to the DNCD chief,Major General Rolando Rosado Mateo.

Two Colombian men were detainedwhen the shipment was discovered, and later in the day a third man was arrestedon the island. It is believed that at least one remaining member of the group,described by the authorities as heavily armed, is still in hiding. A militarycontingent made up of members of the Navy, Air Force special forces and theDNCD are searching for the fugitives.

“An intercepting speedboat and a Navy Coastguard vessel, a USCoastguard vessel and a DNCD launch took part in the operation, which began atapproximately 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening and ended in the early hours ofWednesday”, said Rosado Mateo.

He added that “the speedboat that was transporting the drugs wasstranded on the beach at Saona after being surrounded by the unitsthat took part in the operation. The crew abandoned ship but two were detained,both of Colombian nationality.”

One of the men in custody was named as Andrés Ramírez Quiroz.

The authorities also confiscated an automatic weapon, three outboardengines and 25 fuel tanks. The launch was towed to the Sans Souci Naval Base inSanto Domingo before being handed over to the DNCD.

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