Colombian drug lord ‘Otoniel’ sentenced to 45 years in US prison

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Dairo Antonio Usuga, one of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords, was sentenced to 45 years in prison yesterday by a US federal judge.

Usuga, 51, who pleaded guilty to cocaine smuggling charges earlier this year, was the leader of Colombia’s largest narco-trafficking gang, the Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, reports AFP.

Known as “Otoniel,” Usuga was extradited to the United States from Colombia last year.

He pleaded guilty in January to running a criminal enterprise, engaging in a maritime narcotics conspiracy, and engaging in a narcotics importation conspiracy.

US District Court Judge Dora Irizarry sentenced Usuga to 45 years in prison on each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Usuga, who faced a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison, agreed as part of his plea deal to pay $216 million in forfeiture.

Prosecutors described Usuga as the “most violent and significant Colombian narcotics trafficker since Pablo Escobar” and accused him and the Gulf Clan of illegally bringing at least 73 tons of cocaine into the United States between 2003 and 2012.

“Otoniel led one of the largest cocaine trafficking organizations in the world, where he directed the exportation of massive amounts of cocaine to the United States and ordered the ruthless execution of Colombian law enforcement, military officials, and civilians,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement following the sentencing.

US Attorney Breon Peace said the lengthy sentence “sends a message to other paramilitary and cartel leaders that the United States will seek their arrest and extradition in order to hold them accountable in our courts of law.”

Usuga was the most wanted person in Colombia until he was arrested in October 2021 in the country’s northwest after a massive military operation.

According to the US Justice Department, the Gulf Clan has as many as 6,000 members and is one of the world’s largest distributors of cocaine.

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