The War on Drug Money

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WASHINGTON: In the war on drugs, every bust only raises the street price -- and makes kingpins rich. But Janet Reno has just scored a victory that could matter: She got their money. Lots of it.

Reno and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin stood side by side in Washington Monday to announce the culmination of a three-year sting operation targeting Mexican bankers who laundered drug money for the Cali cartel of Colombia and the Juarez cartel of Mexico. The booty: $35 million seized -- with another $122 million to be confiscated from U.S. and foreign bank accounts, and more than 180 expected arrests. And there were drugs, too: Two tons of cocaine and four tons of marijuana.

All this was apparently accomplished without any assistance from the Mexican authorities (although some would say that's hardly a change) -- Reno and Rubin told their Mexican counterparts about the sting only on Monday -- leaving red-faced Mexican officials to stammer about how laundering drug money was not "an institutional practice of Mexican banks." Of course not. Thanks, amigos, for all your help.