- drug trafficking - Mexico - police - USA
US ferrets out cross-border smuggling 'super tunnel'
A highly sophisticated tunnel linking warehouses in the Mexican city of Tijuana and the US city of San Diego has been discovered by authorities as part of efforts to crack down on underground drug smuggling.
Equipped with lighting, a ventilation system and hydraulically controlled steel doors, a tunnel built to smuggle drugs between the Mexican border town of Tijuana and the neighbouring US city of San Diego was no ordinary find for US drug enforcement and border security agencies this week.
The highly sophisticated drug-trafficking “super tunnel” was shut down Wednesday night by US federal authorities, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on its website.
The passageway, linking a warehouse in southern San Diego to a Tijuana building about 80 metres from the border fence, zigzagged underground for about 500 metres and included an electric rail system, authorities revealed.
“It is the largest, most sophisticated tunnel uncovered along the southern border in two years,” ICE said in a news release with accompanying photos and a video.
The year-long work of “engineers and architects,” according to ICE special agent Derick Benner, the tunnel was built at an average depth of 10 metres, and was 120 centimetres high by 90 centimetres wide.
Eight tons of marijuana seized
In an enforcement operation related to the tunnel’s discovery and shutdown, San Diego Tunnel Task Force agents and local authorities seized more than eight tons of marijuana and 325 pounds of cocaine, marking the first time cocaine has been recovered in connection with a local drug tunnel.
ICE said the seized narcotics had an estimated street value of nearly US$12 million (8.9 million euros). Three people were also arrested along with the drug grab.
“This action is another huge setback for the Mexican cartels, which invest vast amounts of time and money to build them,” John Sandweg, ICE’s acting director said in a statement. The tunnel was dismantled before it was operational.
“[Cartels’] traditional routes are failing at this point. They're very desperate. They'll do anything they can to get into the US,” Bill Sherman, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)'s San Diego office, told the AFP news agency.
It was the eighth large-scale drug-smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006. In the last five years, federal authorities have detected more than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels, most of them in California and Arizona.