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10 Craziest Drug Busts

Countries around the world continue to wage an unwinnable war on drugs.

Since the biggest drug bust ever recorded in 1989, the United States has opened an ever-widening spigot of federal spending, amounting to around $1 trillion. It has focused on military and paramilitary interdiction that has crossed countless borders into sovereign countries, in both covert and overt actions that have strained diplomatic relations. Every year since 1989, the US has spent more money than the last. In '89, under the leadership of President George H. W. Bush, the feds spent a modest $7.8 billion on the WoD. Today, the annual cost has risen to $26 billion. The result? The US incarcerates more of its citizens than Stalin did at the height of the Soviet gulags—most of them low-level drug offenders. So what do we get in exchange? Some flashy police work. Read on.

1. The Trans-Border Railway, 2012

$21.2 Million (in today's dollars)

Mexican marijuana traffickers took a page from American history and built their own version of an underground railroad—for a much less noble of a cause: transporting weed across the California-Mexico border. After following a suspicious truck to a Tijuana warehouse, police found the entrance to a freshly-excavated clandestine passageway. The 1,800-foot long tunnel was complete with a light rail system that smoothly delivered marijuana from a crawlspace on the California side. All in all, authorities seized 30 tons of pot worth $20 million. Fun fact: California had just voted against legalizing marijuana just two days earlier.

2. Operation Aussie X, 2008

$309 Million

Aussie ravers went home with empty Mickey Mouse-gloved hands after Australian Federal Police stung a big ecstasy supplier in Melbourne and seized 4.4 tons of MDMA (15 million pills) worth $309 million. The AFP undertook a year-long operation that netted them players from top to bottom, including bosses, dock workers and freight haulers who organized the massive E shipments inside 3,000 tomato cans imported from Italy. It's hard to tell who were the real victims here—clubbers trying to dance to house music without the stuff, or those forced to watch them try.

3. Cowabungle, 2010

$425 Million

Credited as the biggest drug bust in Mexican history, Cowabungle also boasts the least subtle packaging in which weed has ever been delivered: brightly-colored cartoon labels, some of which boasted an elated Homer Simpson exclaiming “Voy de mojarra, que wey!” which roughly translates to “I'm going to get high, dude!” Though Otto Mann might have been better qualified to offer such an endorsement, Homer actually did once have a (legal) stint with the stuff. Unfortunately for the cartels, the packaging made the 105 tons of pot easy to identify, and the police apprehended 11 suspects after a shootout in which no one died.

4. Can't We All Just Get Along? 2005

Haul: $415 Million

Right now, American politics might be blood-soaked battlefield, but in Colombia, politicians use real blood. Instead of chattering ceaselessly on cable TV, Colombian far-left and right wingers often squabble with assault rifles. However, there's one thing on which the Marxist revolutionaries and right-wing Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) can reach across the aisle and agree: hawking coke. Colombian police put a dent in this love-hate relationship when they seized 14 tons of AUC-owned and Marxist-guarded cocaine, worth $350 million, hidden along the Mira River. "This is the biggest haul ever seized in the world in a single operation, in a single day and in a single place," Colombia's national police chief said.

5. Busloads of Hash, 2008

Haul: $376 Million

The War on Terror intersected with the War on Drugs in this bust, which netted a whopping 260 tons of hashish, or roughly equivalent in weight of about 30 double-decker buses—and worth about $350 million. With that much hash tucked inside a bunch of trenches and bunkers, the military found it most feasible to save on man-hours and call in an airstrike: “two aircraft were brought in to destroy the underground bunker in which the hashish was being stored." Now that's a full-scale operation.

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