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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Huge drugs cash haul in Colombia
Police survey the results of Saturday's seizure
It could be the largest drug money haul ever
The authorities in Colombia have seized $35m in cash from two apartments in the capital Bogota, reported to be one of the largest seizures of drug money ever.

The seizure was the result of a joint anti-drugs operation with US police which had lasted for about 17 months.

One person was arrested during the raids, which were carried out early on Saturday morning.

The money was found packed up in more than 300 bundles of $100,000 each, hidden behind a bathroom wall in one of the apartments and a kitchen wall in the other.

Record haul

General Luis Ernesto Gilbert, commander of the Colombian national police, said it could be the largest haul of drug money anywhere in the world.

He thanked the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for their part in Saturday's seizure.

US ambassador Anne Patterson
US ambassador Anne Patterson handles the goods
"Every time we trail international criminals, the DEA plays an important role," he told a news conference.

The authorities suspect that the money seized was being stashed temporarily until it could be laundered.

The case was part of the joint Operation Journey, a major international drugs investigation which has involved 12 counties and resulted in the seizure of around 25 tons of cocaine, as well as dozen of arrests.

US drug war

The Colombian defence minister said the money seized would be spent on reinforcing the country's anti-drug force and their equipment.

Colombia produces more than 80% of the world's cocaine, and is the single largest supplier of heroin to the US.

According to the DEA, the demand for illegal drugs in the United States last year totalled over $60bn.

The money made from Colombian drug sales abroad returns to the country and is then reportedly invested in ostensibly legitimate enterprises within the building, catering, and entertainment trades.

In the hope that stamping out production will put an end to drugs consumption, the US has been involved in the controversial spraying of Colombian drug crops, both coca and poppy, the raw materials for cocaine and heroin.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"The money was waiting to be 'washed'"
See also:

25 Jul 01 | Americas
US backs Colombia drugs fight
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