U.S. Targets Powerful, Profitable "Super Cartel"

The U.S. government has indicted and arrested most of the top tier of the largest Colombian drug trafficking organization in history, CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan reports.

For the past nine months, Colombian police and U.S. law enforcement have waged war against what they call "the super cartel," an international money laundering and drug trafficking network more sophisticated - and more powerful - than anything they'd seen before and responsible for nearly half the Colombian cocaine on the streets of the United States.

That's at least 912 tons over the past seven years with a street value of $24 billion.

"This case is- it's not big," an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - known as ICE - said on the condition of anonymity. "It's huge."

Operation Pacific Rim began last September at the sprawling, busy Colombian port, Buenaventura. Police and U.S. ICE agents intercepted a suspicious container of fertilizer.

Inside was shrink-wrapped bundles of cash.

"The word came in, $6 million, $8 million, still counting," U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield said.

They stopped at $28 million.

CBS News joined the Colombian police, prosecutors and U.S. ICE agents as they raided the super cartel's jungle labs and arrested dozens of narcotics traffickers and hitmen.

On one raid in eastern Colombia, they captured one of the top three kingpins of the super cartel, a man known as "Don Claudio." Another - "Don Lucho" - was arrested in Argentina, and the U.S. has requested his extradition.

"Their tentacles reach all over the globe," the ICE agent said.

The super cartel's cocaine was sent to every continent on Earth except Antarctica, from Colombia to the United States to Africa and to Europe.

The Colombian Coast Guard showed CBS News how they chase drug traffickers who use high speed boats to elude capture.

The super cartel even built a fleet of semi-submersibles for a million dollars each. They're designed to be used just once to ferry tons of cocaine to Mexico.

"It's mindboggling the kind of profit these guys were producing," the anonymous ICE agent said.

The super cartel made more than $5 billion in profits, more money than even they could launder.

"They invest in businesses, big investments, apartment complexes, office buildings," the ICE agent said. "But there's so much left over that they have- they have to do something with this cash. Sometimes all that's left is to hoard it and hide it."

Columbian police and U.S. ICE agents are still hunting members of the super cartel, searching for their money and their drugs.
  • Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.

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