Mexico seizes $4 billion in methamphetamine
MEXICAN troops have made a historic seizure of $4 billion of pure methamphetamine in the western state of Jalisco, an amount roughly equivalent to the entire economy of the Isle of Man.
The sheer scale of the bust drew expressions of amazement from meth experts. The 15 tonne haul could have supplied 13 million doses on the streets of the United States. To give a sense of scale: only 30 tonnes were seized worldwide in the entire year of 2009.
"This could potentially put a huge dent in the supply chain in the US," said US Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. "When we're taking this much out of the supply chain, it's a huge deal."
Reporters were shown barrels of white and yellow powder that were found in a laboratory on a small ranch outside of Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city.
The Mexican army said troops received several anonymous tips and found the massive drug stash in the township of Tlajomulco de Zuniga, near the Jalisco state capital of Guadalajara. The army statement called the seizure "historic," implying it was the largest on record for the armed forces.
There were no people found on the ranch or arrests made, although it appeared 12 to 15 people worked there.
"Seizures of this size ... could mean one of two things," said Antonio Mazzitelli, the regional representative of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime. "On one hand, it may be a product that hasn't been able to be sold, and like any business, when the market is depressed, stockpiles build up."
Or, he noted, "such large-scale production could suggest an expansion, an attempt by some Mexican groups, the most business-oriented I would say, to move into Latin American and Asian markets.
The previous biggest bust announced by the army came in June 2010, when soldiers found 3.4 tonnes of pure meth in three interconnected warehouses in the central state of Queretaro, along with hundreds of tons of precursor chemicals used to make meth. A giant underground lab was also found in Sinaloa state.
Those other seizures were believed to be linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel's massive move into meth production.