Sunday 11 December 2016

'No light at end of tunnel' for cross-border drugs smugglers

Published 24/03/2016 | 08:16

The entrance to a tunnel at a newly-built home in Calexico, California (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement/PA)
The entrance to a tunnel at a newly-built home in Calexico, California (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement/PA)

US authorities have seized a newly-built house in California with all mod cons - including a cross-border tunnel that ran the length of four football fields into Mexico and was used to smuggle drugs.

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The tunnel was the 12th to be discovered along California's border with Mexico since 2006.

Drug traffickers bought the property in Calexico, California, in April for £170,000 (240,000 US dollars) and finished building a three-bedroom house by December. Prosecutors say the first drugs shipment came through the tunnel on February 28.

The tunnel extended about 300 yards in Mexico from the El Sarape restaurant and ran about 100 yards into the US to the house in a quiet residential area of Calexico, a city of about 40,000 people 120 miles east of San Diego.

But the tunnellers were unaware that police were onto the scam.

"This house and tunnel were constructed under the watchful eye of law enforcement," said Laura Duffy, US attorney for the Southern District of California.

"For the builders, the financiers and the operators of these passageways, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We will seize your drugs and your tunnel before you even have a chance to use it."

Two men were arrested in Calexico, one at the tunnel house and another at a house believed to have been used to store drugs, and charged with drug trafficking.

Two women were arrested in Arizona, including the buyer of the Calexico house.

Mexico's Sinaloa cartel has long controlled drug trafficking along the border in California's Imperial Valley, which offers easy access to Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The group's leader, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in July through a tunnel but was captured again in January.

Press Association

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