Quebec sailors arrested in Caribbean after drug-laden boat set ablaze
After controlling the fire, law enforcement found 1.5 tons of cocaine, estimated to be worth about $300 million.
Two Quebec men face charges in the Caribbean after a drug-laden yacht in which they had been sailing burst into flames while being escorted by law enforcement.
During the night of Thursday, July 19, French border agents patrolling the waters off of the French Antilles in the Caribbean Sea intercepted a sailboat with a small blue fleurde-lys emblazoned on its side. The sleek, white yacht pitched and rolled on the open sea in what Jean-Damien Moustier, the head of the French government’s Caribbean anti- drug trafficking unit, called difficult conditions.
“There were large waves,” he said. “It was complicated and the coast guard wasn’t able to quickly control the boat.”
Unable to board, agents began escorting the sailboat, called the Livie, to the nearby port of St-Martin.
The ships sailed through the night until, at 10 a.m., the Livie burst into flames. The two Quebecers bobbed nearby in a life raft. Moustier alleges they set the vessel on fire in an attempt to sink it before authorities could seize its cargo. The yacht’s masts caught fire and fell amid clouds of smoke. Six hours later, border agents and firefighters had the blaze under control and were able to inspect the badly charred boat. Below decks they found no less than 1.5 tons of cocaine, an amount that Moustier estimated would be worth about $300 million on the Canadian market.
Moustier said that the Livie probably picked up its cocaine shipment off the coast of Venezuela. He speculated that, had it not been intercepted, it would have sailed up the East Coast of the United States and delivered it to be sold in Montreal and elsewhere in the province.
The two Quebec men, aged 53 and 55, are in a Martinique prison after having appeared before a judge on Tuesday in Fort-de-France to face charges of drug trafficking, criminal association and destruction of goods by dangerous means.
Moustier said that his organization is investigating the circumstances surrounding the smuggling operation.