Mexico drug smuggling tunnels uncovered

 

Two sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnels outfitted with lighting and ventilation systems have been discovered along the US-Mexico border.

Both tunnels were at least 150 yards long. One, found on Wednesday by the Mexican army, began under a bathroom sink inside a warehouse in Tijuana but was unfinished and did not cross the border into San Diego.

The other was completed and discovered on Saturday in a vacant strip mall storefront in the south-western Arizona city of San Luis.

It showed a level of sophistication not typically associated with other crude smuggling passageways that tie into storm drains in the state.

Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge of the Phoenix division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said: "When you see what is there and the way they designed it, it wasn't something that your average miner could put together.

"You would need someone with some engineering expertise to put something together like this."

As US authorities heighten enforcement on land, tunnels have become an increasingly common way to smuggle loads of heroin, marijuana and other drugs into the country. More than 70 passages have been found on the border since October 2008, surpassing the number of discoveries in the previous six years.

A total of 156 secret tunnels have been found along the border since 1990, the vast majority of them incomplete.

Raids last November on two tunnels linking San Diego and Tijuana netted a combined 52 tonnes of marijuana on both sides of the border. In early December 2009, authorities found an incomplete tunnel that stretched nearly 900ft into San Diego from Tijuana, equipped with a lift at the Mexican entrance.

The latest Arizona tunnel was discovered after state police pulled over a man who had 39 pounds of methamphetamine in his vehicle and mentioned the strip mall.

The tunnel was found beneath a water tank in a storage room and stretched across the border to an ice-plant business in the Mexican city of San Luis Rio Colorado. It was reinforced with four-by-six beams and lined with plywood.

Investigators believe the tunnel was not in operation for long because there was little wear on its floor, and 55-gallon drums containing extracted dirt had not been removed from the property.

Mr Coleman said investigators cannot yet say for sure if the tunnel, estimated to cost 1.5 million US dollars (£970,000) to build, was operated by the powerful Sinaloa cartel. Authorities suspect cartel involvement because the group from Sinaloa controls smuggling routes into Arizona.

"Another cartel wasn't going to roll into that area and put down that kind of money in Sinaloa territory," Mr Coleman said.

"Nobody is going to construct this tunnel without significant cartel leadership knowing what's going on."

US authorities were investigating the Tijuana tunnel for three months, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Authorities found no connections to the smuggling operation involving the Arizona passageway.

The Tijuana tunnel was discovered inside a building advertised as a recycling plant in an area where industrial warehouses are common on both sides of the border.

The Mexican army said two tractor-trailers were found inside the warehouse, along with shovels, drills, pickaxes, buckets and other excavation tools.

The Mexican army estimated the tunnel was about 150 yards long and more than 10 yards underground. The walls were lined with dirt and wide enough for one person to get through comfortably.

It takes six months to a year to build a tunnel, authorities said. Workers use shovels and pickaxes to slowly dig through the soil, sleeping in buildings where the tunnels begin until the job is done. Sometimes they use pneumatic tools.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border