Seaboard Marine, the cargo company used exclusively by local soft drink manufacturer SM Jaleel and Co Ltd, said yesterday the container transporting cocaine valued at US$100 million (TT$644 million) apprehended last month in the US state of Virginia was not theirs.
“The company has come forward with this statement of clarification to underline the fact that Seaboard is not remotely associated with the shipment in question... Seaboard Marine has not, and will not in any way transgress the laws of Trinidad and Tobago or the USA,” the Miami, Florida-based shipping company said in a release.
Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers at the Port of Norfolk in the US state of Virginia seized 732 pounds of cocaine concealed in cans bearing the labels of popular SM Jaleel product Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit juices on December 20 last year.
The wholesale value of the cocaine is about US$12 million and has a street value of as much as US$100 million, according to Customs officials. Port officials stated that the container originated from this country and was destined for New York.
Seaboard Marine does not offer an Export Consolidation Service; rather it provides exclusively a Full Container Load service, and as such does not handle customers’ cargo in any way, the company said. It added that it ships solely from the Port of Point Lisas and not Port of Spain from where the container originated, nor does it service the Port of Norfolk.
“Seaboard Marine has maintained an incident-free and positive 23-year business relationship with SM Jaleel in getting legitimate local products into the US transparently and legally,” the company added.
SM Jaleel had said on Sunday in a release on its website some of its brands had unfortunately been targeted (to traffic illegal drugs), perhaps because the brands are so well-known internationally.
In an advertisement in today’s newspapers, the company reiterated that it did not export the container transporting the cocaine.
“The scale of our exports and our unblemished reputation on the international market for the past 30 years makes us a natural target for sophisticated drug smugglers,” SM Jaleel said.