By Richard McColl
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - The Ministry of Defense on Thursday revised the amount of cocaine seized in the country’s biggest-ever drug bust.
The seizure of 12 tons of cocaine from farms in the north was announced Wednesday. But the farms where the drugs were being stored in underground chambers have now been fully searched and dismantled and the amount has been revised to 13.8 tons, authorities said.
The drugs, believed to belong to Dairo Antonio Úsuga, who is also knows as Otoniel, the head of the Gulf Clan criminal gang, were found stored in four farms near the towns of Chigorodo and Carepa, 175 miles (281 kilometers) north of the second city of Medellin and near to the Gulf of Uraba that enters the Caribbean. Presumably from there the drugs would be shipped abroad.
“Our police found more than 12 tons of cocaine hidden underground which, according to our information, was produced by drug traffickers located in Choco, Antioquia, Catatumbo, the Llanos Orientales and other regions of the country,” President Juan Manuel Santos told the media after visiting the area where the drugs were seized Wednesday.
It is believed the cocaine would have fetched more than $360 million on the streets of the U.S. In 2016, Colombian authorities seized 317 tons of cocaine, and in 2017, the figure has risen to 362 tons with this seizure.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocaine, with the U.S. its main market.
Between 2014 and 2016, coca cultivation in Colombia expanded from 69,000 hectares (171,000 acres) to 146,000 hectares (361,000 areas0, and according to reports from the UN, production of the cocaine alkaloid doubled
from 442 tons to 886 tons during the same period.