Colombian drug lord Otoniel to be extradited to US

Colombia has announced that the country’s most wanted drug trafficker will be extradited to the US after he was captured in a raid.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, known as Otoniel, was seized after a joint army, air force and police operation on Saturday.

He led the country’s largest criminal gang and has been on the US Drug Enforcement Agency’s most wanted list for years.

US officials had placed a $5m (£3.6m) bounty on his head.

They accused him of importing at least 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2014.

What will happen to him?

Colombia’s Defence Minister Diego Molano told El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the US extradition order.

Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition, according to newspaper El Nuevo Siglo.

Being locked up in a jail thousands of miles from their home country, in a place where they have few connections and no means to intimidate guards or prison directors is a fate many Colombian drug traffickers fear.

The late drug lord Pablo Escobar said that he would prefer “lying in a grave in Colombia than being locked up in a cell in the US”.

Except for a six-year period between 1991 and 1997, when Colombia’s constitution banned extraditions of Colombian citizens, a number of top level traffickers facing indictments in the US have been sent to stand trial there.

Among them are the co-founder of the Medellín cartel, Carlos Lehder, drug lord Daniel “The Madman” Barrera and paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso.

Otoniel, who was indicted in the the US in 2009, will faces a number of charges, including sending shipments of cocaine to the US, killing police officers and recruiting children.

How was he caught?

Otoniel was captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia, close to the border with Panama.

The operation involved 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters. One police officer was killed.

Otoniel had used a network of rural safe houses to move around and evade the authorities, and did not use a phone, instead relying on couriers for communication.

In the past, police have found special orthopaedic mattresses for Otoniel in these sparse homes, as he suffered back pain from a herniated disc.

Police chief Jorge Vargas has said the drug lord was fearful of capture, “never approaching inhabited areas”.

But El Tiempo reported that authorities managed to pinpoint the location where he was eventually captured two weeks ago.

Chief Vargas said his movements were traced by more than 50 signal intelligence experts using satellite imagery. US and UK agencies were involved in the search.

Mr Duque described the operation as “the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country”.

Colombia’s armed forces later released a photo showing its soldiers guarding Otoniel, who was in handcuffs and wearing rubber boots.

There have been several huge operations involving thousands of officers to capture the 50-year-old in recent years.

source: bbc

Ray Charles Marfo

Digital Marketing and Brands Expert

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