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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 11:13 GMT
Colombia seizes $54m drugs cash
Colombia's Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos counting dollars seized during a police operation in Cali, Colombia
It took police half a day to drill open one hidden compartment
Colombian authorities have seized $54m (27m) in cash as well as gold ingots from the country's largest drugs cartel in a series of raids.

The cash came from shipments delivered by the Norte del Valle cartel, which Washington says has moved more than 500 tons of cocaine to the US.

The first stash of $19m was found in vacuum packed blocks hidden behind a false wall in Cali.

Three other hoards were found earlier this week around the city.

President Alvaro Uribe said he wanted to congratulate the police for a "great accomplishment".

"This is a positive step toward having a Colombia without rebel organisations, without paramilitaries, without drug traffickers or corruption," he told reporters.

Reports say officials from the US Drug Enforcement Administration accompanied Colombian police on the raids.


Official sources said the money was a mixture of operating funds and cash put away for a rainy day by the cartel capos.

Police said they found the money and gold as a result of tip-offs.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota says the raids will upset the traffickers, but that the police doubt it will interrupt their drug-running operations.

With 20 people arrested along with the money, the Norte del Valle cartel will now be desperate to find the leak within the organisation and plug it, he reports.

The Norte del Valle cartel became the country's most powerful drugs organisation after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1980s and early 90s.

As the source of the majority of the world's cocaine, Colombia receives potentially billions of dollars each year from the international drugs industry, much of it in dollars and euros.

Colombian 'drugs baron' captured
16 Jan 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Colombia
07 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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