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Americas

Colombia extradites drug boss to US

Video by Regan RANUCCI , Aurore Cloé DUPUIS

Latest update : 2008-12-13

Colombia has extradited Diego Montoya, a drug boss arrested in 2007, to the US to stand trial. Montoya reportedly controlled 70% of the cocaine trade to the US and Europe and is blamed for more than 1,500 murders.

REUTERS- Colombian crime boss suspect Diego Montoya was sent to the United States on Friday to face charges of smuggling hundreds of tonnes of cocaine, marking what police called the end of the Norte del Valle cartel.

Authorities say that as head of the drug gang Montoya, known as Don Diego, helped it supplant the once-mighty Medellin and Cali cartels. He was captured last year after a long manhunt that ended when police raided his farmhouse hide-out and found him cowering in a ditch dressed only in his underwear.

It was an ignominious end to the career of the portly billionaire who is accused of governing a crime empire from his base near the city of Cali. He appeared next to Osama bin Laden on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list.

Montoya, in sunglasses, handcuffed and wearing a blue dress shirt under a bulletproof vest, was shown on television boarding a plane headed for Miami, where he is wanted by a federal court on charges including money laundering. Montoya has not been tried in Colombia, where he is accused of hundreds of murders.

"This extradition means the end of the Norte del Valle cartel," national police chief Oscar Naranjo told reporters. "All of its major leaders have been caught or killed."

But the gang still exports cocaine from Colombia's Pacific coast, said Bogota-based security consultant Pablo Casas.

"This is the end of one boss but it is not the end of the Norte del Valle organization. Drug bosses multiply in Colombia like bacteria in a petri dish," Casas said.

The cartel's violent exploits inspired this year's No. 1-rated local TV soap opera called "Cartel de los Sapos" ("Cartel of the Snitches"), which traced the story of how Norte del Valle became the biggest drug gang in Colombia.

Another key Norte del Valle leader, Wilber Varela, was found shot dead in Venezuela early this year after a gunfight among rival smuggling organizations.

Montoya's brother Eugenio was extradited to the United States earlier this year on charges of cocaine trafficking.

Colombia has extradited hundreds of drug suspects to the United States but cocaine exports from the Andean country remain steady at about 600 tonnes a year, according to the United Nations
 

Date created : 2008-12-12

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