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Colombian drug lord, linked to Kinahan ‘super-cartel’, pleads guilty to cocaine trafficking

The European cocaine super cartel is made up of the Irish Kinahan mafia, the Balkans' Tito and Dino cartel, the Dutch Mocro Mafia and the Italian Camorra

The capture of Dairo Antonio Úsuga, otherwise known as Otoniel

Daniel Kinahan

Edin Gacanin, one of the super cartel business partners of Daniel Kinahan

One haul of cocaine in Columbia

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Columbia’s most-wanted drug lord, who has been linked to Europe's ‘super-cartel’ of which Daniel Kinahan was a member, has pleaded guilty in New York to trafficking tons of cocaine.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, who is also known as Otoniel, was extradited to the US last May.

He is now facing decades in prison after admitting to leading a deadly cartel and paramilitary group and various drug trafficking charges that involve nearly 97,000kg (107 tons) of cocaine.

“Tons of cocaine were moved with my permission or at my direction,” Dairo Antonio Úsuga, told a Brooklyn federal court.

“There was a lot of violence with the guerillas and the criminal gangs,” he added, and acknowledged that “in military work, homicides were committed.”

Daniel Kinahan

As part of his plea deal Úsuga (51) has agreed to forfeit $216m in criminal cash, although the US government has agreed not to seek a life term as part of a deal to secure his extradition from Colombia.

US authorities consider Úsuga, who presided over the Gulf Clan, which terrorised much of northern Colombia to control major cocaine-smuggling routes, as one of the most dangerous drug traffickers on the planet.

His capture in October after a seven-year manhunt was compared to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1980s by former Colombian president Iván Duque.

Duque said Úsuga was “not only the most dangerous drug trafficker in the world, but he is murderer of social leaders, abuser of boys, girls and adolescents, a murderer of policemen”.

According to prosecutors, Úsuga’s thousands of enforcers carried out attacks, kidnappings, torture, assassinations and organised campaigns against Colombian law enforcement and military troops.

Otoniel's Colombian Clan del Golfo cartel exported at least 20 tons of coke monthly

Colombia's most wanted man to be extradited to US on drug trafficking charges

Italian police seize cocaine worth €240m from Otoniel's Clan del Golfo cartel

He is accused of personally ordering the killing and torture of his enemies and would declare “strikes” in which businesses had to shut down and people living on the cartel’s turf were forced to stay at home.

Despite a $5m reward offered by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency for information leading to his arrest, Úsuga eluded capture through a combination of corruption, alliances with both left - and right wing combatants in the internal conflict that has racked Colombia for over half a century.

He was eventually captured in his rural hideout in Antioquia province in north-western Colombia in October 2021, close to the border with Panama in an operation involving 500 soldiers supported by 22 helicopters.

The leader of the El Clan del Golfo, who had a penchant for young girls and who moved through his mountain hideout on donkeys, had a strong alliance with Balkan, Italian and Mexican cartels and in particular had ties to Edin Gacanin, one of the super cartel business partners of Daniel Kinahan.

Edin Gacanin, one of the super cartel business partners of Daniel Kinahan

The European cocaine super cartel is made up of the Irish Kinahan mafia, the Balkans' Tito and Dino cartel, the Dutch Mocro Mafia and the Italian Camorra.

It is believed that hundreds of tonnes of cocaine were ordered directly for the European market through the relationship and during meetings deep in the Colombian jungles.

The emerging picture of the global movement of cocaine from Colombia, Ecuador and Chile to Europe has given a disturbing insight into how the Balkan element of the super cartel brought the drug gangs directly to their suppliers in the mountains where coca leaves are grown.

Sources say a business plan for the merging of the groups was the brainchild of Daniel Kinahan and each cartel brought money and contacts together to form a powerful grouping that has flooded Europe with cocaine over the past five years.

The direct links between the super cartel and the Colombian cocaine kingpin emerged as the Government approved a request by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to enter a formal information exchange with the Colombian National Police.

A member of the Garda's Drug and Organised Crime Bureau has been based in the region for over a year, building a strong Irish presence in the south American country, which is the largest producer of cocaine in the world.

An investigation by the Sunday World based on EU drug reports, source information and reports published across the Balkan territories has found that the Kinahan organisation can be directly linked to Otoniel.

Colombian authorities believe that Otoniel regularly met with criminals from Europe, and in particular the Balkans, to negotiate massive cocaine shipments and even brought them into his jungle home to hammer out deals.

His right-hand man, Chiquito Malo, is also suspected of meeting with the criminals and having a personal relationship with a close associate of Gacinan.

One haul of cocaine in Columbia

At the time of Otoniel's arrest, General Jorge Luis Vargas, the director of the Colombian national police, said that members of the Balkan group would travel into the uncharted Paramillo Massif mountain range to meet with the clan heads.

"Five mafias and international cartels are the principals with whom the Clan Del Golfo trafficks: Jalisco New Generation and Sinaloa in Mexico, the Calabresa and Siciliana mafias in Italy and the Balkan networks," he said.

"We have identified 28 countries where cocaine is sent by the group."

Vargas went on to say that the clan was laundering its money with business people of Lebanese, Arab and Israeli origin.

He listed regular routes for the cocaine as the US, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Ireland, the UK, Italy, Albania and Ukraine with connections in Iran, China, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

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