Notorious drug lord Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, has been extradited to the US, six months after he was captured in his native Colombia following a massive police operation.
Otoniel is head of The Gulf Clan, a drugs cartel believed to be involved in the sale of some 200 tonnes of cocaine a year, as well as murders, kidnappings and illegal gold mining operations.
The crime syndicate, closely associated with far-right terror groups believed to have about 1,800 active members and vast stores of arms and ammunition. It controls drug-trafficking routes across the US and as far away as Europe and even Russia.
One Colombian police officer died in the massive operation to capture Otoniel, which saw some 500 soldiers supported by satellite surveillance from US and UK anti-crime agencies.
The raid on Otoniel’s hideout in the north-western Antioquia province was described by Colombian President Iván Duque as "the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country”.
The government had offered a $800,000 (about £580,000) reward for information leading to his capture, while the US placed a $5m bounty on Otoniel’s head.
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“I want to reveal that Dairo Antonio Usuga, alias ‘Otoniel’ has been extradited,” President Ivan Duque announced on Twitter yesterday (Wednesday, May 4), describing him as “the most dangerous drug trafficker in the world”.
He added that the drug baron’s extradition to the US shows that “nobody is above the Colombian state”.
Otoniel, 50, is a “murderer of social leaders and police, an abuser of boys, girls and teenagers.” Mr Duque added.
While Otoniel’s name is not as well known internationally as those of El Chapo and Pablo Escobar, "In South America, there is no larger cocaine trafficker," Toby Muse, author of Kilo: Inside the Cocaine Cartels, told the BBC.
"We are living in the golden age of cocaine, we are producing more cocaine than ever," he added, "that's a fact."
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The drug lord, wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet, was escorted by armed police in a convoy of armoured vehicles from a jail in Colombian capital, Bogotá, to a military airport, where he was handed over to US Drug Enforcement Administration officials.
Photos taken by law enforcement official show the captured criminal looking downcast as he was in handcuffs led into an aircraft ready for transport to the US.
Following Otoniel’s arrest and those of another 90 suspected gang members, Mr Duque said it was the “end” of the Gulf Clan.
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