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Reputed cartel chief may be sent to U.S.

February 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — Reputed drug kingpin Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante was deported Thursday from Cuba to Colombia, which plans to extradite him to the United States to face trafficking and other charges, officials said.

Gomez, an alleged top boss of the Norte del Valle cartel, had been held in Cuba since his 2004 arrest at Havana's main airport. He fled Colombia after Washington offered a $5-million reward for the capture of Colombia's top drug traffickers.

A Cuban government announcement read on state television said that Gomez was turned over to Colombian authorities at Havana's international airport.

Oscar Galvis, a spokesman for Colombia's DAS intelligence agency, confirmed that Gomez had arrived in Colombia on an air force flight from Cuba.

The Cuban statement did not mention Colombia's plans for Gomez. Cuba has no extradition treaty with Washington and harbors some suspects wanted in the United States.

But a Colombian official said Wednesday that an order had been signed to send Gomez to the United States. The official spoke on condition that he not be further identified because he was not authorized to divulge the information.

Gomez was indicted in New York on drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering charges. He would be the most senior reputed drug boss extradited to the United States since Cali cartel chief Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela was extradited in March 2005.

The Norte del Valle cartel, the most powerful traditional drug organization in Colombia, is believed to account for as much as 60% of the cocaine consumed in the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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