Feature Articles

April 2002

How the mafia imports cocaine.

Inside the mob import business: The day the Montreal Mafia brought in the cocaine motherlode.

By Gary Dimmock

Gary Dimmock is an investigative reporter for The Ottawa Citizen, Canada's capital newspaper, and host of In the past 10 years, investigative reporter Gary Dimmock has uncovered evidence that has re-opened old murder cases, tracked down killers who have gone unpunished at home and abroad, and proved the innocence of three men condemned to prison for life.
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  •      MARC FIEVET walked into the Banco Atlantico in Gibraltar on Nov. 5, 1993 carrying a sack full of money, motioned to the bank manager and went into a private room.

         Another man, German skipper Jurgen Kirchhoff, waited in the lobby. The two men had only known one another for a few weeks. Under an assumed name, Mr. Fievet introduced himself as a frontman for investors who had an offer the boat captain couldn't refuse. He said they wanted to bankroll a shipping company, its fleet to be skippered by Mr. Kirchhoff who would be paid $10,000 US a month plus 10 per cent of profits. They were ready to buy the first ship right away and told Mr. Kirchhoff "to start looking for a boat.

         Mr. Kirchhoff, alone, would be left to incorporate the company, Pacificsun Shipping Ltd., and open a bank account in Rotterdam.

         Back in Gibraltar, a British possession on the southern tip of Spain, Mr. Fievet emerged from the bank meeting an hour later. The bank manager then handed Mr. Kirchhoff three cheques.

         In all, $2.3-million (U.S.) had been deposited in Mr. Kirchhoff's bank account - of which $2,075,000 was used to purchase the ship MV Pacifico.

         Though Mr. Kirchhoff considered himself a mere trustee for the investors, the skipper was, according to letters patent, the sole owner of the shipping company - a firm that held clear title to a $2-million U.S. vessel. He became the lone owner of the ship yet had not paid a single penny or borrowed towards its purchase - moreover, no documents gave security to Marc Fievet, aka Marc LaFleet, or the silent investors.

         ONE MONTH LATER, Mr. Kirchhoff set sail for South America on the shipping company's first voyage.

         It would be his last.

         On Feb. 22, 1994, his long shipping career ended as the skipper of a cocaine mothership in a high-seas hot pursuit by commando-trained RCMP riding shotgun aboard a navy battleship.

         The real offer that fell into Mr. Kirchhoff's lap had more to do with smuggling Mafia drugs, almost six tons of cocaine to be exact.

         The German skipper is now serving 18 years in prison for his part in the conspiracy.

         Mr. Kirchhoff's doomed mission had its beginnings in Poland, where he took possession of the ship from a repair dock.

         Days before Christmas 1993, co-conspirator Raymond LeBlanc of Bouctouche boarded the ship on the Kiel Canal, a canal which leads from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea.

         The week before, Mr. LeBlanc had phoned the captain's residence in Ystad, Sweden, from a room at the Plaza Hotel in Hamburg, Germany.

         The supercargo - one hired to supervise cargo - aboard, the ship sailed to Antwerp in the Netherlands, then to England and back to Rotterdam.

         Then, in late December 1993, the ship, loaded with cargo, left for South America.

         The real reason Mr. LeBlanc boarded the ship may have had little to do with supervising cargo.

         Days before, Mario Locatelli, considered one of the world's biggest drug traffickers, had learned that police were looking for Mr. LeBlanc while he was in Europe.

         To find out what was going on, Mr. Locatelli phoned Pierino Divito in Montreal. He asked him if he knew of any reason why authorities would be looking for his "friend."

         Mr. Divito reassured Mr. Locatelli that there was no reason to worry about his "friend.

         "In any event," Mr. Locatelli said over the phone,"I put him on the truck [ship]" "And he ... pratically (sic) he does not appear, he is not there," Mr. Locatelli explained.

         "Yes, I understand," Mr. Divito said.

         "You understand? Now, today I will call back my ... my trucker and I will tell him to make sure he does not appear anywhere, then. Mr. Divito: "Great, that's the best thing. You can talk to him, can't you?"

         "Certainly, certainly," Mr. Locatelli said. Customs documents do not list Mr. LeBlanc either as a crew member or passenger after Jan. 11, 1994.

         The voyage took 16 days; part of the cargo was unloaded in Paramaribo,in Georgetown and the rest in Curacao.

         At the last port, Mr. Kirchhoff is believed to have received a telephone call from Marc Fievet. Mr. Fievet apparently asked the skipper to meet him and a partner in Caracas, Venezuela. But when he arrived, he was met by only Mario Locatelli.

         Mr. Locatelli said if the ship was going to North America, he may have cargo for him. He said the cargo would come on board by transshipment, normally a transfer from one vessel to another at sea. The skipper was then given coordinates and a radio frequency - if he wanted more details, he was to ask Mr. LeBlanc, the supercargo.

         The meeting lasted 20 minutes. Mr. Kirchhoff returned to Curacao the following day. When the skipper asked Mr. LeBlanc about the cargo, he was told it contained cannabis seeds, adding he didn't know what cannabis seeds were.

         Having secured a load of steel bound for North America, Mr. Kirchhoff agreed to haul the additional cargo so long as it didn't mean lost time.

         Mr. LeBlanc said he had to go ashore, some 40 miles away, to sign papers for the cargo he was picking up for the United States.

         On the way, they stopped at a phone booth where Mr. LeBlanc made three calls to Pierino Divito, an alleged co-conspirator in Montreal. Mr. Divito is reported to be a friend of reputed Montreal Mafia bosses.

         The calls, according to Mr. Kirchhoff, were to find out where the cargo was going.

         Using a telephone debit card, three calls, all within one hour, were placed to Mr. Divito's cellular phone in Montreal on Feb. 8, 1994. Once Mr. LeBlanc got Mr. Divito on the line, he would pass the receiver to Mr. Kirchhoff.

         In Montreal, Mr. Divito would hand the phone to Mr. Locatelli who then gave coordinates to Mr. Kirchhoff.

         The debit card ran out twice during the calls.

         "A moment, I'll call back, the card is finished here, moment," the skipper told Mr. Locatelli.

         "He can't come out too far," Mr. Locatelli replied.

         "No, no," Mr. Kirchhoff again interrupted,"I'll call back, my ... are finished here.

         "Are you calling back now?" Mr. Locatelli asked. "Yes, I'll call back again, one more time," the skipper replied.

         "Right away, O.K., see you," Mr. Locatelli said.

         "Yes," the skipper answered.

         A few minutes later, on the next call, the skipper says: "The man, he must now give the position so that later we don't speak via ship anymore."

         "Yes," Mr. Locatelli agreed, "Do you want this position now?"

         "Yes," the skipper replied.

         "But ... " Mr. Locatelli hesitated.

         "Then we don't need to talk over this satcom installation anymore, then we'll just say ... day X, we'll be there.

         "Ah ..."

         Mr. Locatelli replied,"You are in a booth.

         "I am here in a phone booth, yes," Mr. Kirchhoff said.

         "Yes, just wait, just wait ..." Mr. Locatelli told the skipper.

         Mr. Locatelli then quickly ran through the co-ordinates.

         "Say it again quick," the skipper said.

         Five days later, the ship made the transshipment position, somewhere at sea.

         To his surprise, instead of meeting another vessel, he received a radio message from an aircraft.

         The pilot told him he was 10 minutes away.

         The plane circled the ship once then dropped its cargo, bales of cocaine, into the ocean. The ship's crew then lowered three inflated Zodiacs into the water and began retrieving the floating packages.

         In all, about six tons of cocaine would be dropped by three planes during the Feb. 13, 1994 day-long operation.

         The skipper's first mate came to him with a handful of cocaine to show him after one of the packages had ripped open.

         Mr. Kirchhoff ordered the crew to throw what remained in the Zodiacs overboard and return to the ship.

         The already retrieved bales of cocaine aboard, the Pacifico took its course for North America.

         Fearing for his life, he led Mr. Fievet and other conspirators to believe the seas were too rough to retrieve the remaining bales. In any event, he stayed on course.

         On shore, co-conspirators were having trouble.They were in charge of bringing ashore the shipment aboard a daughtership, Lady Teri-Anne. But ice off the coast of Shippagan, New Brunswick made it impossible for the small fishing boat to reach the Pacifico.

         They decided instead to rendez-vous off the coast of Nova Scotia, then haul the shipment ashore at Shelburne Harbour, N.S. In the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 22, 1994, the Pacifico rendez-voused with the fishing boat off the Nova Scotia coast.

         The bales of cocaine transferred, the fishing boat headed for the harbour 25 minutes later and the Pacifico set a course for the United States.

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