Marijuana worth $25m seized as US-Mexico tunnel found

SAN DIEGO – Federal authorities in San Diego have made one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States, confiscating 20 tonnes of pot near an underground tunnel connecting warehouses on either side of California’s border with Mexico.

Mexican authorities seized another four tonnes from the warehouse on their side of the border. Officials said the lightning-speed, 12-hour operation started when US authorities watching a warehouse under surveillance followed a tractor-trailer as it left the building.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents called in the California Highway Patrol, whose officers stopped the rig near Temecula and authorities found 10 tonnes of marijuana inside. The driver, a US citizen, and his Mexican wife were arrested.

Authorities quickly got a federal search warrant to enter the warehouse, where they discovered 10 to 15 tonnes of marijuana – worth about US$20 million ($25 million), said ICE director John Morton.

They also found a door that opened to a hole leading to the tunnel, running the length of six football fields, under the border and into a warehouse in Mexico, Morton said.

Officials found packets ready to be moved into the US from the tunnel, which had lighting, ventilation and a rail system to send loads of illegal drugs into California.

Officials said the seizure was the largest in California and was believed to be the second-largest in the US. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 33 tonnes of marijuana in Oregon in 2008.

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