A record seizure of 838 pounds of Asian heroin worth $1 billion was the largest bust in U.S. history, but it was only a small victory in the war against drugs, authorities said.

The FBI and New York police smashed a major Chinese narcotics ring in the massive bust that included the arrest of some 45 suspects from New York to Hong Kong.Among those arrested was the accused kingpin, Fok Leung Woo, 71, also known as Peter Woo, who was nabbed at his liquor store in the Chinatown section of New York City.

In three raids in Queens, authorities found 838 pounds of heroin packed in wheelbarrow and lawn-mower tires loaded into U-Haul trucks, said Assistant FBI Director James Fox.

The street value of the heroin was estimated at $1 billion, authorities said.

"It is the largest seizure ever in the United States," said Fox. "It's unheard of. The last French Connection type of case that I'm aware of was about 200 pounds back in 1971."

Federal prosecutors said the amount of heroin, which was 90 percent pure, was enough to supply half of the city's 200,000 addicts for a year.

"This won't win the war, but it's a remarkable hit," First Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Condon added. "I'm hard put to tell you what we are going to do next that will outdo this one."

The heroin originated in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia and was shipped through Hong Kong to Los Angeles before it was trucked to New York for distribution in New York, Boston and other East Coast cities, Fox said.

In Hong Kong, however, where nine arrests were made in the case, Inspector Chris Cantley denied Wednesday that the heroin was shipped through the British colony, but said the shipment was organized there.

He would not say what connection the nine had with the suspects nabbed in New York, but said they might by the "organizational brains" of what once was one of the largest drug syndicates in the world.