U.S. Targets Powerful, Profitable "Super Cartel"

By buseman · Jun 18, 2010 · Updated Jun 19, 2010 · ·
  1. buseman
    The U.S. government has indicted and arrested most of the top tier of the largest Colombian drug trafficking organization in history, CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan reports.

    For the past nine months, Colombian police and U.S. law enforcement have waged war against what they call "the super cartel," an international money laundering and drug trafficking network more sophisticated - and more powerful - than anything they'd seen before and responsible for nearly half the Colombian cocaine on the streets of the United States.

    That's at least 912 tons over the past seven years with a street value of $24 billion.

    This case is- it's not big, an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - known as ICE - said on the condition of anonymity. It's huge.

    Operation Pacific Rim began last September at the sprawling, busy Colombian port, Buenaventura. Police and U.S. ICE agents intercepted a suspicious container of fertilizer.

    Inside was shrink-wrapped bundles of cash.

    The word came in, $6 million, $8 million, still counting, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield said.

    They stopped at $28 million.

    CBS News joined the Colombian police, prosecutors and U.S. ICE agents as they raided the super cartel's jungle labs and arrested dozens of narcotics traffickers and hitmen.

    On one raid in eastern Colombia, they captured one of the top three kingpins of the super cartel, a man known as Don Claudio. Another - Don Lucho - was arrested in Argentina, and the U.S. has requested his extradition.

    Their tentacles reach all over the globe, the ICE agent said.

    The super cartel's cocaine was sent to every continent on Earth except Antarctica, from Colombia to the United States to Africa and to Europe.

    The Colombian Coast Guard showed CBS News how they chase drug traffickers who use high speed boats to elude capture.

    The super cartel even built a fleet of semi-submersibles for a million dollars each. They're designed to be used just once to ferry tons of cocaine to Mexico.

    It's mindboggling the kind of profit these guys were producing, the anonymous ICE agent said.

    The super cartel made more than $5 billion in profits, more money than even they could launder.

    They invest in businesses, big investments, apartment complexes, office buildings, the ICE agent said. But there's so much left over that they have- they have to do something with this cash. Sometimes all that's left is to hoard it and hide it.

    Columbian police and U.S. ICE agents are still hunting members of the super cartel, searching for their money and their drugs.

    June 17, 2010


  1. buseman
    World's biggest drugs 'super cartel' smashed by US authorities in Colombia

    The world’s biggest drugs and money laundering "super cartel" in Colombia has been smashed by the American government, officials said.

    Anti-drug agents arrested and charged dozens of members of the powerful Colombian cartel, including two major kingpins, after a series of raids across South America.

    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, estimated the cartel made an estimated $5 billion (£3.37bn) profit from their trade over the past few years.

    Agents involved in Operation Pacific Rim said on Friday that the gang trafficked cocaine to every continent except Antarctica, with drugs bound for Europe and Britain smuggled through Spain.

    They believe the gang were responsible for almost half of the cocaine on American streets, or more than 912 tonnes with an estimated street value of about $24 billion (£16.2 billion).

    The drug cartels buy coca from Colombia's peasant farmers for about £250 per pound. After being refined into cocaine, the same quantity can then be sold for about £15,000 in Europe.

    They were said to have made so much money they could not launder it all, CBS News reported.

    Among those arrested were kingpins, "Don Claudio” in eastern Columbia and "Don Lucho", who was captured in Argentina. Both are now awaiting extradition back to the US.

    Agents and Colombian authorities are continuing their hunt for other cartel members.

    The arrests follow that of one of Colombia's most wanted drugs barons, known as "Don Mario", who was captured near his jungle lair in April, during another major strike against the cocaine trade.

    The cartel operated sophisticated drugs labs in the country’s jungles, engaged ruthless hit men and used submarines to transport the drugs all over the world.

    Their tentacles reach all over the globe, one ICE agent, who declined to be named, told the American broadcaster said.

    It's mind-boggling the kind of profit these guys were producing. They invest in businesses, big investments, apartment complexes, office buildings.

    But there's so much left over that they have to do something with this cash. Sometimes all that's left is to hoard it and hide it.

    William Brownfield, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, said the operation began last September at Buenaventura, a busy Colombian port, after officials intercepted a suspicious fertilizer container that was later found with more than $28million (£19million) worth of shrink-wrapped cash.

    An ICE spokeswoman was unavailable for comment as was a Colombian government spokesman.

    It is a significant boost to the American government’s high-profile war on drugs, after Barack Obama, the US President, announced a new push against central and South American drugs cartels.

    He last year declared that US would confront the drug cartels that were sowing chaos in our communities.

    It is also a significant victory for the Colombian government ahead of next week's second round of the local presidential elections.

    On Thursday, Antonio Maria Costa, the U.N. drug and crime czar warned that international crime syndicates posed a growing threat to global security.

    She told a high-level General Assembly meeting in New York that demand for illegal drugs, diamonds and other items is fueling transnational organised crime.
    By Andrew Hough
    18 Jun 2010
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