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Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Venezuela drugs raid nets record haul
Cocaine
Police found the drugs in a jungle hideaway
At least 14 people have been arrested after police in Venezuela seized a record amount of cocaine.

Five-and-a-half tonnes of the drug were found in the Orinoco delta, a jungle region on the country's north coast.

Twelve people were arrested in Venezuela; two others are being held in France and Italy.


It is a very difficult area to work in because it is a mixture of river, jungle, swamp and sea

General Antonio Alizo
The head of the Venezuelan police, General Gerardo Briceno, said the record haul had been made possible only by a months-long operation involving police from eight countries.

The cocaine was probably produced in Colombia and destined for Spain and Italy, said General Briceno.

Police moved in to seize the haul from a wooden platform which had been constructed on the roots of mangrove trees.

"It is a very difficult area to work in because it is a mixture of river, jungle, swamp and sea," said the head of the National Guard's anti-drug unit, General Antonio Alizo.

Cartel

He added that dozens of commandos from the National Guard were still trying to arrest five suspected members of the drugs cartel thought to be behind the operation, the Los Mellizos ("Twins") gang.

The men are believed to be holed up on an island.

The eight-month investigation, dubbed Orinoco 2000, was financed by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

The governments of the UK, Colombia, France, Greece, Italy and Panama were also involved.

It is estimated that the drug would have sold for $400m on the streets of Europe.

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See also:

23 Jun 00 | Americas
US funds anti-drugs war
06 Apr 00 | Scotland
Fears for drug smuggling grandmother
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