Colombia seizes 12 tons of cocaine in record haul

Colombia has claimed its biggest ever cocaine haul – and put the whole 12 tons on display.

The cocaine, with a market value estimated at £275m ($360m), was found stored underground on four farms in a banana-growing region of northwest Antioquia province, near the border with Panama.

President Juan Manuel Santos, surrounded by armed soldiers, walked on hundreds of packets of the drug which had been laid out like a carpet at a police base.

He said: "Thanks to a police operation with overseas intelligence, from friendly countries, the largest seizure in history was made."

Image:The Colombian President speaks after the drugs were seized

Mr Santos linked the cocaine to the drug-trafficking gang known as the Gulf Clan, which has become one of the biggest threats to security since a peace deal was signed last year with FARC rebels.

The seizure comes as the United States, Colombia's main ally in the fight against drug trafficking, has raised concerns over an increase in coca cultivation.

The government has also faced criticism from opposition politicians for allowing new crime gangs to fill the void left by FARC.

Dozens of heavily armed soldiers guarded the cocaine while it was put on display
Image:Dozens of heavily armed soldiers guarded the cocaine while it was put on display

Mr Santos, who leaves office next year, has pledged to send 80,000 military and police to areas once controlled by FARC in a bid to prevent new trafficking gangs from taking hold.

Four people were arrested during the three-day operation leading to the drug seizure, according to a police statement.

The Gulf Clan is led by fugitive Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel.

The US has offered a reward of up to £3.8m for information leading to his capture or death.

In addition to drugs, the gang deals in illegal mining and most of its estimated 1,500 members formerly served in the ranks of right-wing paramilitary groups.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Colombia has an output of about 910 tons a year of cocaine – making it one of the world's biggest producers.

Anti-drug police have confiscated 362 tons of cocaine this year.

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