Panama Discovers 3 Tons of Liquid Cocaine on US Registered Sail Boat "Intaka" - Spanish Captain Arrested
Saturday, July 09 2011 @ 01:59 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
In The Backpacker Trade? Since the vessel had been seized by the SENAN in the province of Colon, I hopped in my car and headed for the SENAN base located on Fort Sherman. That's the location of their regional headquarters, and the only place the Panamanian authorities would have taken this vessel. When I left Panama City I still didn't have the name of the boat, or the names and details on the Spaniard and his Colombian companion. I thought it likely this vessel might have been one of those manned by the "Spanish Armada" hauling backpackers between the San Blas islands and Cartagena, Colombia. There are many sailboats whose owners charge about $450 per person to bring backpackers back and forth, and this is what Javier Martin and his associates were doing, and what the rest of them are still doing. These boats are not licensed by the Panamanian or Colombian governments to carry passengers. There are no inspection requirements. They lack the proper safety equipment. Their skippers are often drunk or asleep at the wheel (literally.) So, when I heard about a Spanish skipper on a sailboat out of Cartagena with a Colombian companion busted in Panamanian waters, I thought "bingo." Don North had mentioned to a friend he suspected the "Spanish Armada" was involved in drug trafficking, and I thought that might have been what got him killed.
US Registered Sailboat, Possibly Stolen: It also doesn't make sense for a Spanish citizen with a Colombian woman on board to be driving a US registered sailboat. Javier Martin stole the "Twyla" in the British Virgin Islands before coming to Panama to turn himself into a backpacker hauling magnate. He killed Don North and Jean Pierre Bouhard after he crashed his stolen sailboat into a reef near Chichime island in the San Blas because he needed a replacement vessel. When the Panamanian authorities inspected the tents on Chichime they found documents from the "Twyla" indicating it had been registered in Delaware in the United States before later being registered in the British Virgin Islands. And then, Javier Martin stole the boat and took it to Panama. He had the stolen documentation on the boat, and he was able to operate freely in Panamanian waters because he was able to obtain the cooperation of the only local official in the San Blas area who is supposed to oversee these activities - Ismael Sagel, the Port Captain in El Porvenier - who works for the Panama Maritime Authority. So, when I saw "US registered sailboat" in the original news story, that also aroused my suspicions.
Sailboat Captain, Spanish Citizen: It was reported that the captain of the sailboat who was arrested was a Spanish citizen, but the authorities had not released his name or details. Of course, that also lit up all of the red lights. Javier Martin is a Spaniard. All of his "buddies" in the "Spanish Armada" are also Spanish citizens. They all ply the waters between the San Blas islands and Cartagena, hauling backpackers. I didn't yet know who the Spaniard was who had been arrested, and I also didn't know if this boat was involved in the backpacker hauling business, but I had my suspicions.
The "Intaka" - Seized by law enforcement authorities on 8 July 2011 in Panama after more than 3 tons of liquid cocaine was discovered on board in fourteen 55-gallon drums. Two people have been arrested. The boat is pictured here tied up at Panama's National Naval Air Service (SENAN) base in Fort Sherman in Panama's Colon province.
The Full Blow On The Boat: The sailboat is the 61.5 foot long, steel hulled vessel named the "Intaka." It is supposedly registered in the United States with registration number 1089003. A search of current US Coast Guard records indicates the following:
- Data found in historical database no longer in Documentation.
- Vessel Name: INTAKA
- USCG Doc. No.: 1089003
- Vessel Service: RECREATIONAL
- IMO Number: *
- Trade Indicator: Recreational
- Call Sign: *
- Hull Material: STEEL
- Hull Number: *
- Ship Builder: UNKNOWN
- Year Built: *
- Length (ft.): 61.5
- Hailing Port: CINCINNATI OH
- Hull Depth (ft.): 9.7
- Hull Breadth (ft.): 15
- Gross Tonnage: 33
- Net Tonnage: 30
- Documentation Issuance Date: November 29, 2007
- Documentation Expiration Date: November 30, 2008
- Previous Vessel Names: No Vessel Name Changes
- Previous Vessel Owners: BIG TING INC
Expired US Registration? OK, boat guys, help out a land lubber here. When I read this US Coast Guard registration information, it looks to me like the US registration expired on 30 November 2008. So, that means in fact the boat is actually not currently registered with the United States, right? I mean, it was, and it's right there, and the registration number lines up with what was provided to me by my sources in Panamanian law enforcement (so that's what they are going off of) but the registration is expired, right? Or, is there something else I don't know about going on?
Who Was Arrested: There were two people arrested when the Panamanian authorities made this seizure. The first is a Spanish citizen named Juan Jose Mari Cabrales, Spanish passport number BE825430. It should be noted that all of the news reporting thus far on the bust apparently has his name wrong - they've been reporting a last name of "Madrid." My source is excellent and I think I've got it right, for what it's worth. The second person arrested is a Colombian woman named Luisa Johana Gomez Noneira, Colombian passport number CC28152340. So far that's all I know about them. I found this article published in the "El Sol" newspaper in Cartagena, Colombia that talks about the boat and how the Colombian Coast Guard rescued the Spanish skipper back in January 2011:
- "Title: Sailboat Rescued in San Andres: One person was rescued in the last hours by units of the National Navy, after the vessel which sailed from Panama to Honduras suffered mechanical problems during the trip in an area close to San Andres island. The sailboat named "Intaka," American flagged, manned by a man of Spanish nationality, was rescued at about 20 nautical miles from the island of San Andrés, with mechanical problems in their propulsion systems. The vessel was towed by the Navy units to the Coast Guard station on San Andres island, to a safe area in the inner bay of San Andres, where the owner started the respective repairs. The Specific Command of San Andres and Providencia reaffirms their commitment to safeguard life at sea, to exercise sovereignty and maintain security in the Archipelago Department." That article was based on this press release about the rescue of the "Intaka" from the Colombian Navy, issued on 9 January 2011.
Not A Backpacker Boat: The backpackers who travel throughout Latin America on a budget are generally young, technologically savvy, and connected to the Internet world. It doesn't cost anything to snap a few digital photos and upload them to a free travel blog. While investigating the Javier Martin case these websites were a valuable source of information, and there is all kinds of stuff available about him and his (now sunken) sailboat the "Twyla" - thanks to the backpackers. However an exhaustive search of the Internet for information about the "Intaka" reveals a completely different result. There's nothing, nada, about this boat and it's activities. Of course now that the "Intaka" has been busted there's all kinds of new and fresh news articles about the seizure and arrests, in all kinds of media, especially Spanish language and from Central and South America. But I could not find even one blogger entry from a backpacker who has traveled between Cartagena, Colombia and somewhere else as a passenger on the "Intaka." Therefore, I can only conclude at this point the Spanish captain who was arrested - Juan Jose Mari Cabrales - was not involved in this backpacker transportation business. And what's more it's interesting that there's exceptionally little information about this boat anywhere on the Internet. It's almost like the owner was trying hard not to appear on any websites or in any news articles. Go figure ... a drug trafficker who keeps a low profile.
What's The History On The "Intaka"? I am still trying to track down the former or original owners of the sailboat "Intaka." I'm hoping someone out there in the cruiser community will recognize this boat and be able to tell me a little more about it. I know it was apparently legally registered in the US until November 2008, and at some point it was owned by a company called "Big Ting, Inc." in Ohio. I suspect it was stolen at some point in the Caribbean by this Spaniard Juan Jose Mari Cabrales - and if that's the case then there's the connection to the rest of the "Spanish Armada" I'm chasing around here in Panama. Here are some more and better photos of the "Intaka" --
The bow of the US registered sailboat the "Intaka" - seized in Panama with more than 3 tons of liquid cocaine aboard.
The aft end of the US registered sailboat the "Intaka" - showing the US flag flying. US Coast Guard records appear to indicate the registration expired in November 2008, leading to suspicions the "Intaka" might be a stolen sailboat.
The Colombian Navy released this image of the US registered sailboat "Intaka" after they rescued the boat near San Andres Island on 9 January 2011 when the crew had mechanical problems with the motor.
The Colombian Navy released this image showing a view of the aft of the US registered sailboat the "Intaka" after they rescued the boat near San Andres Island on 9 January 2011 when the crew had mechanical problems with the motor.
Youtube Video: Here's a video of the US registered sailboat the "Intaka" when it was rescued by the Colombian Navy. Anyway, if you recognize this boat of if you can provide any additional information, please send via email to email@example.com, and thanks.
Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.