Monday, 06 Feb 2023

Colombias most-wanted drug kingpin pleads guilty in New York

Colombias most-wanted drug kingpin pleads guilty in New York


Colombias most-wanted drug kingpin pleads guilty in New York

A Colombian man who was once one of the world's most-wanted drug lords pleaded guilty Wednesday to US smuggling charges, admitting that he led a cartel and paramilitary group that trafficked in cocaine and deadly violence.

"Tons of cocaine were moved with my permission or at my direction," Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, 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".

Úsuga, 51, could face decades in prison when he is sentenced. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a life term, but the US government agreed not to seek one in order to secure his extradition from Colombia earlier this year, according to US district judge Dora Irizarry.

As part of his plea deal, he agreed to forfeit $216m.

Úsuga presided over the Gulf Clan, which terrorized much of northern Colombia to control major cocaine-smuggling routes. US authorities have called him one of the most dangerous drug traffickers on the planet, and he was Colombia's most-wanted kingpin. Former Colombian president Iván Duque compared him to the infamous 1980s-era kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Prosecutors said last year that the gang's thousands of enforcers carried out attacks, kidnappings, torture, assassinations and organized campaigns against Colombian law enforcement and military troops. Úsuga sometimes personally ordered the killing and torture of perceived enemies and flexed his power by declaring "strikes" in which businesses had to shut down and people had to stay home throughout the cartel's turf.

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