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Mexico seizes record $206m in drug raid

MEXICO CITY -- In the largest cash seizure in Mexican history, authorities arrested a band of suspected methamphetamine producers and seize d $206 million in American currency from a home in a ritzy neighborhood of the capital.

The attorney general's office said seven people were arrested at the house in the Lomas de Chapultepec district, where police discovered wads of US bank notes in bulging cases and stacked to the ceiling in closets. Mexican media said the haul was four times the amount of drug cash confiscated in Mexico during all of last year.

The mountain of money was taken away in a van, guarded by two dozen cars. Police also seized six Mercedes-Benz vehicles, firearms, and machinery used to make pills. The raid was a success for President Felipe Calderón in the crackdown on drug cartels that he launched after taking office last December.

"This is the biggest seizure, not just in Mexico but perhaps in the world," Calderón said of the cash find, which took place Thursday night and yesterday morning.

"I don't want to think about how many young people this gang was poisoning with its drugs, but I can promise them they won't do it any more."

In January, Mexico extradited several drug kingpins to the United States, including Osiel Cardenas, boss of the Gulf cartel.

Police said the money belonged to a drug gang that smuggled chemicals used to make methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant.

Calderón, a probusiness conservative, has sent thousands of troops to drug-crime hot spots including his home state of Michoacan, whose mountain ranges are riddled with laboratories producing methamphetamine for export to the United States.

The attorney general's office said the gang operated behind a pharmaceuticals front company which imported the chemical pseudoephedrine, used in making methamphetamine, from India.

The raid was the result of an investigation opened in December when police seized 19.5 tons of pseudoephedrine in Mexico's Lazaro Cardenas port, the attorney general's office said.

Mexican methamphetamine producers are muscling in on the US market as police crack down on labs in the United States, according to a recent report by the US Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center.