By Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday approved the extradition to the United States of accused drug kingpin and Clan del Golfo crime gang leader Dairo Antonio Usaga, known as Otoniel.
Otoniel, 50, was captured by Colombia’s armed forces at the end of October, ending a seven-year manhunt. He is wanted in the United States on drug trafficking and other charges.
“The Supreme Court has emitted a favorable decision to the extradition of the head of the Clan del Golfo Dairo Usuga, alias Otoniel, to the United States for crimes of drug trafficking,” the tribunal said on Twitter.
The decision ends attempts by Otoniel’s lawyers to avoid his extradition.
They 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.
Otoniel trafficked 180 to 200 tonnes of cocaine per year with the Clan del Golfo and is responsible for the deaths of more than 200 members of Colombia’s security forces, according to Colombian authorities.
The Clan del Golfo boasts more than 1,200 combatants and is connected to drug trafficking and illegal mining, as well as murders of community leaders, security sources say.
Despite decades of anti-drug efforts and billions in spending, Colombia remains a top global producer of cocaine.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Chris Reese)