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11 Sep 2007 08:16
One of the world’s most sought after cocaine kingpins was hunted down and captured in Colombia on Monday in the toughest blow against the country’s drugs trade in more than a decade.
Diego Montoya, who goes by the alias “Don Diego”, was the top boss of the Norte del Valle cartel, believed to be responsible for two-thirds of the cocaine exported from Colombia to Europe and the US. Montoya was on the FBI’s “10 most wanted” list—along with Osama bin Laden.
“This is a blow that speaks to the commitment of the armed forces in the fight against drug trafficking,” Colombia’s vice-president, Francisco Santos, said.
Montoya (49) was arrested on a ranch in the south-west of the country.
A special commando force penetrated the rings of security around him and surrounded the farmhouse, said General Mario Montoya, chief of the army and no relation to the drug lord.
He was transferred to the capital, BogotÃ¡, where he walked off an air force plane in a black T-shirt, his hands bound with plastic restraints.
A month ago it was revealed that Montoya - known as the “Boss of Bosses”—had recruited high-ranking army officers to tip him off on operations against his organisation. The scandal cost two generals their jobs and led to the arrest of 26 officers and soldiers.
The Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, said there was “no doubt” that the purge of the armed forces had allowed the capture to occur.
Norte del Valle was born after the notorious MedellÃn and Cali cartels were dismantled in the 1990s. Montoya started his career in the underworld as a worker in one of the Cali cartel’s cocaine laboratories and took advantage of the demise of his former bosses to take over the trade, controlling everything from coca fields and cocaine labs to export corridors.
Rivalry with another Norte del Valle cartel leader, Wilber Varela, who goes by the alias “JabÃ³n”, or “Soap”, led to all-out war that left hundreds of people dead in the Valle del Cauca province.
Montoya had close ties with paramilitary warlords who protected drug routes and labs. In January his brother was captured and last month another Norte del Valle kingpin, Juan Carlos Ramirez AbadÃa, was arrested in Brazil.
Montoya will be extradited to the US, where he is wanted by three federal courts on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and murder. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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