Colombia extradites ‘world’s most wanted’ drug trafficker to US

Antonio Usuga David and his drug cartel Gulf Clan are accused of illegally bringing over 73 tonnes of cocaine into the US between 2003 and 2012.

Usuga David was captured near the border with Panama following a massive military operation involving 500 soldiers and backed by 22 helicopters.
Usuga David was captured near the border with Panama following a massive military operation involving 500 soldiers and backed by 22 helicopters.

Colombia has extradited the alleged head of the feared Gulf Clan, who had been the country’s most-wanted drug lord before his capture, to the United States where he faces indictments in three federal courts.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Wednesday that Dairo Antonio Usuga David is “comparable only to Pablo Escobar,” referring to the late former head of the Medellin drug cartel.

“He is not only the most dangerous drug trafficker in the world, but he is the murderer of social leaders, abuser of boys, girls and adolescents, a murderer of policemen,” said Duque who was accompanied by Colombia’s military leaders whom he congratulated for guarding Usuga David and capturing him in October 2021.

Evading arrest for over 10 years 

The former rural warlord, better known by his alias Otoniel, had stayed on the run for more than a decade by corrupting state officials and aligning himself with combatants on the left and right. 

He was transferred in handcuffs and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest from prison in Bogota to a heavily guarded military transport airfield.

Usuga, 50, has long been a fixture on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) most-wanted list. 

He was first indicted in 2009, in Manhattan federal court, on narcotics charges and for allegedly providing assistance to a far-right paramilitary group designated a terrorist organisation by the US government.

Later indictments in Brooklyn and Miami federal courts accused him of importing into the US at least 73 metric tons of cocaine between 2003 and 2014 through countries including Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Honduras.

Colombia’s most-wanted drug lord ‘Otoniel’ captured

Biggest blows to drug trafficking business

Usuga David’s also cycled through the ranks of several guerrilla groups, most recently claiming to lead the Gaitanist Self Defense Forces of Colombia, after a mid-20th century Colombian leftist firebrand.

He was captured near the border with Panama following a massive military operation involving 500 soldiers backed by 22 helicopters, in which one police officer was killed.

It was one of the biggest blows to Colombia’s drug trafficking business since the assassination of Pablo Escobar in 1993.

The Colombian government began the capo’s extradition after the State Council lifted a provisional suspension of an order by Duque endorsing the move. The high court dismissed a petition from a group of Usuga David’s victims who argued that his extradition would violate their rights to justice and reparation. They wanted him to first face the more than 128 proceedings against him in Colombia.

The United States accuses Usuga and the Gulf Clan of illegally bringing at least 73 tons of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2012.

Following Usuga’s arrest and that of another 90 suspected gang members, Duque declared the “end” of the Gulf Clan.

Duque said that from the United States, Usuga would continue collaborating with the Colombian authorities in the investigations against him and once he completes his sentences for drug trafficking, he will return to “Colombia to pay for the crimes he committed.”

The Gulf Clan’s army of assassins terrorised much of northern Colombia to gain control of major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles north to Central America and onto the US.

As he defied authorities for years, his legend as a bandit grew alongside the horror stories told by Colombian authorities of the many underage women he and his cohorts allegedly abused sexually.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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