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Law

Six-nation sweep nets drug traffickers

From Terry Frieden
CNN

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U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A major drug trafficking operation that allegedly moved cocaine, marijuana, and cash between Colombia and the United States through the Caribbean has been dealt a major blow, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Wednesday.

"Our cooperative international law enforcement efforts have put a stop to 10 percent of the illegal cocaine supply coming to the United States," he said

Officials of several Caribbean countries joined Ashcroft at the news conference.

In a synchronized international operation, police agencies in six countries over the past two days arrested more than 50 high-level drug traffickers, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy called the operation the "crown jewel" of a five-year "Caribbean initiative" against drug traffickers.

Among those arrested was alleged Colombian drug kingpin Elias Cobos-Munoz, who was taken into custody Monday night in that country.

Cobos-Munoz and many of the others arrested have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on charges of distributing cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and money laundering.

Ashcroft called the indictments "a significant victory over the culture of crime, of corruption and death that is fueled by illicit drugs."

"The Cobos-Munoz organization allegedly generated nearly $145 million in proceeds from its drug trafficking activities," he said.

Ashcroft said the Justice Department hopes many of those in custody ultimately will be extradited and face trial in the United States.

Officials said arrests were made in the Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica and Panama. In addition, three people were arrested in Miami and two in New York.

Justice Department officials said the seizures netted 14,300 pounds of cocaine, 2,665 pounds of marijuana, 1 million doses of heroin and $36 million in currency and assets.

"The war on drugs goes on. This was huge," said one law enforcement official familiar with the operation.


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