The man Colombia describes as the world’s most dangerous drug trafficker told security forces: “You beat me” when he was captured at the weekend, the government says, pledging to extradite him swiftly to the US.
Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, was caught by Colombia’s armed forces during an operation in a rural area of Colombia’s Uraba region, Antioquia province, which involved more than 500 members of Colombia’s special forces and 22 helicopters, officials said on Saturday (local time).
Otoniel is accused of exporting hundreds of tonnes of cocaine each year. President Ivan Duque said on Saturday he was also responsible for killing police officers, recruiting minors and sexually abusing children.
Colombia’s government would file a petition on Monday with the Andean country’s Supreme Court to extradite Otoniel to the US, Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz told Reuters. The process is expected to take up to a month to complete.
Colombia had offered a reward of up to three billion pesos (about $A1 million) for information concerning Otoniel’s whereabouts, while the US government had put up a reward of $US5 million ($A6.7 million).
Both rewards would be paid, Diego Molano, Colombia’s defence minister said, while describing Otoniel as “the worst kind” of criminal.
Otoniel, 50, rose to become the leader of the drug-trafficking group Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, following stints as a left-wing guerrilla and later as a paramilitary.
The Clan del Golfo has a presence in 12 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, and counts some 3800 members, according to Colombia’s national police.
Clan del Golfo is involved as well with illegal mining, authorities say. The government also accuses the group of threatening and killing community leaders across the country.
Colombia’s police chief, General Jorge Vargas, said much of the information leading to Otoniel’s capture came from Clan del Golfo members.
“A lot of Clan del Golfo’s people betrayed him,” General Vargas said.
Otoniel trafficked between 180 tonnes and 200 tonnes of cocaine a year with the Clan del Golfo, and was responsible for the deaths of more than 200 members of Colombia’s security forces, the defence ministry said.
Authorities launched Operation Agamemnon in 2016 as they worked to close in on Otoniel, killing and capturing dozens of his lieutenants, going after his finances and forcing him to be constantly on the move, according to police.