Cartel blow | 

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

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, has links with one of the super cartel business partners of Daniel Kinahan

The capture of Otoniel was compared to the fall of Pablo Escobar by President Ivan Duque

Neil Fetherstonhaugh & Nicola Tallant

Colombia's Supreme Court has approved the extradition of Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, to the US where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

The leader of the Gulf Clan cartel, who has links with one of the super cartel business partners of Daniel Kinahan, was captured in October after a seven-year manhunt.

Colombia's Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz had pledged to extradite Otoniel to the US after his capture last year, which was compared to the fall of Pablo Escobar by President Ivan Duque.

Justice Department officials in Washington made a formal request in November and the Columbina court's decision, announced on Twitter, ends attempts by Otoniel's lawyers to halt his extradition.

"Extradition awaits all those who commit international crimes," Defence Minister Diego Molano said at the time.

Lawyers for the drug kingpin argued he should be included in a special tribunal convened under the auspices of a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, where participants in Colombia’s six-decade internal conflict can receive alternative sentences for confessing their participation.

Otoniel was willing to divulge details of collaboration between some military officials and illegal armed groups, his lawyers said.

Just one of the massive drug seizures made by Columbian authorities

Prior to his capture, Colombia's government had offered a $800,000 (€734,000) reward for information about his whereabouts, while the US placed a $5m bounty on his head.

Usaga, aka Otoniel, was Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker and was a former guerrilla leader who used his military background to take over territory of the northwest of Colombia.

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

The Gulf Clan that he led is believed to have about 1,800 armed members, who are mainly recruited from far-right paramilitary groups. Members have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Peru and Spain.

The European cocaine super cartel had close links with the Colombian drug kingpin whose arrest has been described as the 'most severe' blow to narcotics trafficking this century.

The 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 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.

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.

Edin Gacanin

"Each had something unique to bring, whether they could offer a money laundering service, control of the major entry points into Europe at Antwerp or Rotterdam or the connections with the Colombian bosses who control the 600,000 acres of cocaine production land.

"It has been an extraordinary time for Europe," a source said. "Each member of the big four European groups had something vital to offer the other. The merging of these groups has resulted in this tsunami of cocaine we describe that has hit Europe."

The direct links between the super cartel and the Colombian cocaine kingpin have 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, whose arrest has been hailed as the most significant since the takedown of Pablo Escobar in 1993.

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.

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.

Daniel Kinahan

"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.

A recent EU drug report said the Kinahan mafia was becoming more significant in the global distribution of cocaine and that Irish gangs were increasingly establishing their own operations to transport cocaine to Europe from producing countries.

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