- - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

PUERTO RICO

Drug cash seizures grow in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN — Law enforcement agencies are seizing increasing amounts of suspicious cash in Puerto Rico, an apparent sign that more drug proceeds are flowing through the U.S. island territory and the Caribbean as a whole, officials say.

Large seizures of money, ranging from the tens of thousands of dollars to more than a million, have become routine in Puerto Rico, where traffickers can take advantage of frequent air and ship traffic to and from the continental United States to move both drugs and money, according to law enforcement officials in the region.


There has been an increase in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well, though the amount confiscated is much less.

The two main agencies involved in drug cash seizures, Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), both reported increased seizures for the year.

Homeland Security reported seizures of cash rose 68 percent to nearly $2.4 million for the 12 months that ended Sept. 30.

The DEA says its seizures more than doubled, to about $18 million, for the period.

JAPAN

Japan to buy US F-35 fighters

TOKYO — Japan selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter on Tuesday to replace aging jets in its air force and bolster its defense capability amid regional uncertainty.

“Our decision on the next-generation fighters was an extremely important one for our national security, and we wanted to acquire fighters with solid capability,” Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said.

The announcement came amid fresh concerns about regional stability following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The impoverished North is known to be pursuing nuclear weapons, and neighbors worry about the potential fallout from political maneuvering there.

“The security environment surrounding Japan remains unstable and uncertain in many ways, and it is crucial to ensure peace and independence of our country,” Mr. Ichikawa told a news conference.

Japan is buying 42 of the aircraft under a multiyear deal. The Defense Ministry is requesting a budget of $706.9 million for the first four fighters next fiscal year, which starts in April.

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