Colombian drug lord arrested for shipping ‘outrageous’ amounts of cocaine to US

Colombian drug lord arrested for shipping ‘outrageous’ amounts of cocaine to US
Leader of notorious ‘Clan del Golfo’ was captured in October

The accused leader of a Colombian drug cartel shipped “outrageous” amounts of cocaine to the United States before getting captured in October, prosecutors have said.

Dairo Antonio Usuga, or “Otoniel”, appeared in Brooklyn’s district court on Thursday on charges of drug trafficking cocaine from Colombia into the US.

US prosecutors claim the leader of the notorious “Clan del Golfo” (The Gulf Clan, in English) shipped “outrageous quantities of cocaine into the United States” from Colombia – from where he was extradited on Wednesday – over two decades.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said in a video message that Otoniel was comparable to deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar, and that the “extradition shows nobody is above the Colombian state”.

Authorities in the country believe Otniel was responsible for shipping up to 200 tonnes of cocaine a year with the Clan del Golfo out of Colombia. He was captured by the country’s security forces in a jungle in October 2021.

Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told reporters Otoniel once had 6,000 “henchmen” under his command, and had shipped more than 10 tonnes of cocaine into the US in 2021 alone. Those shipments were seized at the border.

Otoniel is “one of the most dangerous, most wanted drug kingpins in the world”, Mr Peace said on Thursday. “He earned enormous profits, measured in billions, not millions. Today he will finally face justice.”

US Senator Marco Rubio was among lawmakers welcoming the news of Otoniel’s extradition. “Alias Otoniel, leader of the dangerous Clan Del Golfo, will now face justice after filling our streets with illicit drugs and committing senseless crimes in Colombia,” he said in a statement.

“US-Colombia security ties & our bilateral relationship remain essential mechanisms for accountability.”

Between 2003 and 2021, the Clan del Golfo orchestrated at least 40 shipments of one ton or more of cocaine to the US through Mexico and Central America, Mr Peace said.

Colombian authorities also accuse the cartel boss of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of the country’s security forces who have been tasked with countering the drug cartel’s business in the country’s north.

The Clan del Golfo, in apparent retaliation for the extradition of its leader, said it would enforce a curfew in parts of Colombia’s northern Magdalena and Bolivar provinces. Residents were reportedly warned not to open businesses or leave their homes.

Additional reporting by Reuters.