- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2004

More than 2.2 million pounds of illicit drugs worth $11 billion were seized last year by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, who also confiscated $52 million in cash at the nation’s seaports and land borders, CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said yesterday.

“As our nation’s first line of defense against the terrorist threat, CBP is addressing its greatest priority mission, keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of our country,” Mr. Bonner said. “However, the traditional missions … continue and are an important part of what we do, day in and day out, to secure America’s borders and protect Americans from harm.

“There is no doubt that illegal drug trafficking is a serious threat to our country’s security, and we are committed to do everything possible to disrupt this dangerous criminal enterprise,” he said.

Mr. Bonner said CBP officers processed more than 401 million people last year, along with 109 million cars and 20 million commercial trucks and cargo containers — all subjected to increased questioning and inspection.

According to records, the officers made 17,716 marijuana seizures for 2.1 million pounds; 2,255 cocaine seizures for 90,305 pounds; 772 heroin seizures for 3,875 pounds; and 375 methamphetamine seizures for 3,134 pounds. There also were 1,337 currency seizures, totaling $52 million.

Mr. Bonner said that while it is not a crime to carry more than $10,000, it is a federal offense not to declare currency or monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or more to a CBP inspector upon entry or exit from the United States. Failure to do so, he said, can result in seizure of the currency or arrest.

Some of last year’s record seizures, according to the records:

• The Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas. Inspectors seized 10,101 pounds of marijuana worth $10 million hidden in a truck hauling artificial Christmas trees.

• Laredo, Texas, port of entry. Inspectors and canine enforcement officers seized the largest marijuana load in the history of the port, a total of 9,331 pounds valued at $9.3 million discovered in a truck hauling a shipment of glass.

• A south Texas checkpoint. Border Patrol agents discovered 4,520 pounds of marijuana worth $3.6 million and 360 pounds of cocaine worth $11 million hidden in a truck filled with sand.

• Sumas, Wash., port of entry. Inspectors seized 1,435 pounds of marijuana, worth $3.5 million, from a double tractor-trailer.

CBP, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, also collected $24.7 billion in duties and importation fees during 2003 at the nation’s seaports and border crossings, nearly $1 billion more than 2002’s total of $23.8 billion.

As a source of revenue for the federal government, CBP ranks second only to the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Bonner said the value of imports to the United States during 2003 was $1.2 trillion, an increase over 2002’s $1.1 trillion total.

He also said the total volume of international traffic processed by CBP for 2003 was 11.1 million truck containers with a value of $3.5 billion, 2.4 million rail containers worth $10.8 billion, and 9 million sea containers with a value of $344 billion.

Import data also showed that Canada was the top trading partner of the United States with 15 percent of the total value of imports during 2003. China was second with 11.5 percent, and Mexico third with 10.6 percent, he said.

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