The UN is home to its fair share of diplomatic tussles and international scandals, but this was a very different kind of intrigue: more than 35 pounds of cocaine wound up in the mailroom of the United Nations headquarters in New York, authorities say, sent probably by someone who figured the drug would elude detection because of how it was packaged.
New York Police spokesman Paul Browne said the powder, discovered January 16, was in two white bags meant to look like diplomatic pouches, stamped with a bogus U.N. logo and sent from Mexico City through a DHL shipping center in Cincinnati. But a real U.N. diplomatic pouch is blue, has a lock and features the authentic seal of the organization. By international law, those pouches are not normally inspected or opened.
Workers at the U.N.’s postal receiving center were screening the bag, which had no destination or return address, when the cocaine — which has a street value of $2 million — was found in hollowed-out notebooks. Browne said the bags likely wound up at the actual U.N. building by accident.
“It is my understanding that because there was no addressee, DHL just thought: ‘Well, that’s the UN symbol so we should ship it on to UN headquarters and let them figure out who it was supposed to go to,’” Browne told reporters.
No connection to anyone at the United Nations has been made and no suspects have been arrested. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials say the investigation is ongoing, but have made no comment yet.
“This did not come from a United Nations facility,” U.N. official Gregory Starr told reporters. “It was not, in my opinion, not intended to go to a United Nations facility.”