Taking down Colombia's "super cartel"

A behind-the-scenes look at the investigation that took down the most powerful drug trafficking organization in law enforcement history

The following is a script from "The Super Cartel" which aired on Nov. 18, 2012. Lara Logan is the correspondent. Howard L. Rosenberg, producer.

We're about to take you behind the scenes of a three-year investigation that took down the most powerful drug trafficking organization in law enforcement history.

Bigger than both the Cali and the Medellin cartels combined, more powerful than the infamous Pablo Escobar - this was a Colombian cocaine empire with a reach so vast, and profits so great, it became known as "the super cartel."

Sworn to secrecy until now, our 60 Minutes team was given unprecedented access to the investigation as it was unfolding.

Colombian national police worked alongside agents from ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, whose job, among other things, is to prevent contraband from moving across U.S. borders.

The amount of cocaine and money the super cartel smuggled was incomprehensible and it took authorities by surprise.

U.S. ICE agents first got a glimpse of what they were up against when they arrived here in September 2009: the sprawling, Pacific coast port of Buenaventura, Colombia.

The agents got a tip to be on the lookout for cargo containers of fertilizer arriving from Mexico. They were stunned by what they found.

[Man: There it is!

Man: F***!]

Shrink-wrapped bundles of money. This one is 700,000 U.S. dollars in 20-dollar bills. As they searched through more containers, both here and in Mexico, they found staggering amounts of cash. More and more money, $41 million in that first seizure alone.

Lara Logan: You'd never actually seen anything like it?

Luis Sierra: No, no, we'd never seen containers full of cash.

Luis Sierra was directing the ICE operation that day. He told us that until then, tales of containers full of cash were just a myth.

Lara Logan: How much space physically does that kind of money take up?

Luis Sierra: $41 million is probably waist deep in maritime shipping container, waist deep of cash.

Lara Logan: How long did it take you to count it?

Luis Sierra: It took us 30 days to count.

Teams of agents worked eight hours a day with Colombian police counting the money inside this heavily secured bank in Bogota, the capital. And that was just the beginning.

Luis Sierra: The amounts of cash they move is unfathomable. It-- we couldn't believe it. And, shipments that we seized, that was a routine shipment for them. That--that was--that was nothing.

Lara Logan: A routine shipment.

Luis Sierra: Routine. Monthly, weekly--that wasn't a once a year or a one-time shot. They were--they were--that was standard business.

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