Authorities seized 12 tonnes of marijuana and arrested 22 people after discovering one of the longest cross-border tunnels between the US and Mexico, officials said.
The passage connecting warehouses in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, was about 2,400ft long and 30ft deep.
It was lit, ventilated and equipped with a rail system — hallmarks of the most sophisticated tunnels found along the border.
Near-simultaneous police stings resulted in six arrests in San Diego and 16 in Mexico. Authorities recovered two tonnes of marijuana in the US and 10 tonnes in Mexico.
US authorities said smugglers tried to move the first load of drugs through the tunnel but that nothing got through undetected.
The sting came after an undercover agent for US Homeland Security Investigations agreed to provide the drug smugglers with drivers and use of a warehouse in exchange for a $10,000 (€9,065) payment for each truckload of drugs moved, according to a “probable cause” statement.
The discovery demonstrates the enduring appeal of tunnels to smugglers, despite the significant time and money required to build one. Dozens of tunnels have been found along the US-Mexico border in recent years, some equipped with hydraulic lifts and electric rail cars.
The San Diego-Tijuana region is popular because its clay-like soil is relatively easy to dig, and because both sides of the border have warehouses that provide cover for trucks and heavy equipment.
It was unclear which drug trafficking organisation orchestrated the latest passage but the region is largely controlled by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, whose leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in July through an elaborate tunnel.
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