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Published 7th December 2010, 11:57am

Alert Customs staff at Owen Roberts International Airport recently averted a substantial quantity of cocaine from being transported to Miami on a routine flight.

Last month, officers from the Customs Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) arrested a male passenger ticketed on a Cayman Airways flight to Miami, and seized the cocaine at the airport.

According to Mr Bruce Smith, the assistant collector of customs and CNET head, the individual was attempting to pass through outgoing security when he was stopped. Security personnel recovered one tape-wrapped package from the individual's pants pocket and alerted Customs, detaining the individual. CNET officers swiftly took over and conducted a thorough search of the man, which revealed a second, similarly tape-wrapped package strapped to his thigh.

Mr Smith noted that the quantity and type of drug in this incident is cause for significant concern.

"As this matter represents the exportation of a controlled drug, it is clear that increased efforts, coupled with adequate resources for Customs, are vital to stem the flow of illegal substances imported into the Cayman Islands," he said. Once the controlled drug is distributed at street level, the damage is done; a reactionary response may be too late, he emphasised.

"A proactive stance - incorporating careful planning, intelligence support, suitable local resources and cooperation from other law enforcement agencies and the public - is vital to any degree of control," he said.

Furthermore, the situation had the potential to "severely impact the reputation of persons travelling from Cayman into the United States, had the individual been apprehended by US authorities," he pointed out.

Mr Smith commended the security officers, acknowledging their vigilance at the departure area. He also is pleased with his officers who were at the airport terminal at the time, and busy dealing with arriving passengers.

"Their quick response and the professional way in which the situation was controlled are equally commendable," he said, noting that CNET officers also were assisted by other Customs officers stationed at the airport Customs office.

Investigations into this matter are continuing.