U.S. officials working with authorities in Mexico and Colombia have seized about $41 million in cash hidden in shipping containers, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced Monday.
The U.S. agency, commonly called ICE, says the seizures were made September 9-18. It called them the largest bulk cash container seizures in Colombia and the largest for the agency since its inception. According to ICE: • On September 9, Colombian customs inspectors and Colombian national police seized $11.2 million in U.S. currency hidden in two shipping containers. The containers were aboard a vessel that sailed from the Port of Manzanillo, Mexico, and was headed to Buenaventura, Colombia. Colombian customs inspectors said it was the most cash ever seized by police at a port in the nation. • On September 10, a second seizure of U.S. currency estimated at $11.2 million also was made at the Buenaventura port. • On September 11, a shipment of $11 million was discovered hidden inside two shipping containers at the Port of Manzanillo. • On September 14, ICE special agents, along with Colombian authorities, discovered three additional shipping containers in Buenaventura containing approximately $5 million in $100 and $50 bills. These shipping containers also originated in Manzanillo.
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• On September 18, authorities seized $2.15 million in $100 bills concealed inside two containers aboard a vessel that arrived in Manzanillo. The ports of Buenaventura and Manzanillo are key points along a well-known route used for smuggling cocaine northward to Mexico and then on to the United States and for sending cash back into Colombia, where most of the cocaine originates, ICE said in a news release. ICE is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, investigating financial crime, trade fraud, narcotics smuggling and cash smuggling, the agency said. ICE was established in 2003 after the Homeland Security Act of 2002.