Mexican authorities find $205 million drug money; largest cash seizure ever
By IOAN GRILLO, Associated Press Writer
MEXICO CITY — A top U.S. drug official said Monday that Mexican authorities have seized $205.6 million from a luxury house in the capital, in what is believed to be the largest drug cash seizure ever.
The money found hidden inside walls, suitcases and closets came from profits of the sale of methamphetamines in the United States, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen Tandy said in a statement.
"This is like law enforcement hitting the ultimate jackpot," Tandy said. "But luck had nothing to do with this windfall."
Tandy said DEA agents have been working with Mexican police in a "historic partnership" against methamphetamine producers, which resulted in the bust on Thursday.
Mexican federal agents seized the cash along with eight luxury vehicles, seven weapons and a machine to make pills during a raid in Lomas de Chapultepec, a neighborhood of walled compounds that is home to ambassadors and business magnates. Seven people were arrested.
In addition to the U.S. money, officials found 200,000 euros and 157,500 pesos, which totals about $280,000.
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said the money was connected to one of the hemisphere's largest networks for trafficking pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in methamphetamines. He said the ring had been operating since 2004 and was run by a native of China who had gained Mexican citizenship.
The alleged gang leader is in hiding, possibly outside of the country, Mora said.
Tandy said the operation should reduce the supply of methamphetamines to the United States. At least 80 percent of meth consumed in the U.S. is trafficked by Mexican gangs, she said.
Mexican officials say the bust is part of nationwide crackdown on drugs and crime led by President Felipe Calderon, who came to power in December on a law and order platform. Since January, Calderon has sent more than 24,000 police and soldiers to areas ravaged by drug-related violence and extradited four alleged drug kingpins to the United States.