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US swoops on big heroin ring

The apparent kingpin of a drug ring that channeled up to $45 million of heroin from Asian poppy fields through Sicily to the United States has been jailed on $10 million bail -- the highest in the city's history. Six people named in 17 indictments were still at large Thursday.

The indictments capped a two-year investigation involving law enforcement agencies in the US, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece, and Italy.

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"This was the major Southwest Asian heroin connection to the United State," said John Fallon, Drug Enforcement Administration regional director. "This is the most significant organization to be destroyed yet."

"It's not to say we've dried up New York or the rest of the country," said Abraham Azzam, chief of the DEA's special action division in Washington. "But we've hurt them seriously."

Mr. Fallon said the ring operated from June 1979 to last November. Ring members allegedly shipped morphine from Lebanon to Italy, where it was refined into heroin. It was then shipped to the United States by couriers, in unaccompanied baggage, and in furniture shipped by boat.

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