- - Tuesday, December 20, 2011


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 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.


Inauguration goes ahead after disputed vote

KINSHASA — The president of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation was sworn in Tuesday for another term, pledging to unify the country after an election that was criticized by international observers.

The country’s top opposition candidate, meanwhile, planned his own inauguration in a move that could spark political chaos.

Congo’s supreme court last week upheld the victory of President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power for more than a decade.

However, second-place finisher Etienne Tshisekedi insisted Sunday he was the country’s democratically elected leader and would take his own oath of office later in the week.

The army deployed tanks in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa, ahead of Tuesday’s ceremony amid fears of unrest if Mr. Tshisekedi ordered his supporters to protest.

Mr. Kabila delivered a message of national unity, describing himself as the president of all Congolese and vowing to create more jobs in his next five-year term.


6 arrested in death of ex-mob boss

MONTREAL — Canadian police said Tuesday that they have arrested six people in connection with the slaying of a mob boss who once led New York’s notorious Bonanno crime family.

Inspector Roberto Bergeron said Raynald Desjardins, 59, and three other people have been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Salvatore Montagna, whose body was pulled from a river near Montreal last month.

Two others arrested without warrants are expected to face similar charges.

Mr. Desjardins is alleged to have past connections to Vito Rizzuto, the reputed head of the Montreal mafia, who is imprisoned in the United States.

Mr. Desjardins narrowly survived a shooting in a suburb north of Montreal just two months before Mr. Montagna died.

Two of the others arrested are Vittorio Mirarchi, 34, and Felice Racaniello, 27. The names of the others were not released.


Lifeboats found empty in search for crew

MOSCOW — Four lifeboats and an inflatable raft were found empty in frigid waters near where an oil rig sank off Russia’s eastern coast, rescuers said Tuesday, as hopes faded of rescuing the 39 men still missing.

The search continued for a third day, with an airplane, two helicopters and three ships scouring the Sea of Okhotsk where the rig capsized and sank on Sunday.

Of the 67 men aboard, 14 were rescued from the icy water.

The Emergencies Ministry said Tuesday that 11 bodies have been recovered and three objects believed to be bodies have been spotted but not yet retrieved.

There was no sign of the others.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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