Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Most wanted' Colombian drug suspect captured, U.S. confirms

By Jim Barnett, CNN



Washington (CNN) -- U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday that one of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's "most wanted" drug trafficking suspects was captured recently in Venezuela.

Maximiliano Bonilla-Orozco, leader of a transnational narcotics and transportation organization, was captured Sunday in Valencia, the officials said. He is accused of moving thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to the United States via Central America, they said.

The officials did not disclose details of how he was captured.

The U.S. State Department was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

On Wednesday, on the web page for the Department of Homeland Security's most wanted criminals, a red banner with the word "Captured" was placed over Bonilla-Orozco's mug shot.

Bonilla-Orozco, 39, was linked to the transport of more than $25 million in drug-related proceeds from the U.S. to Mexico, officials said. He also is accused of money laundering.

He was charged in a 2008 indictment in the Eastern District of New York.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it is believed Bonilla-Orozco's organization "employs a network of warehouses and front companies to purchase legitimate goods that are stored and transported with the narcotics to mask the drug shipment."

A U.S. government official, not authorized to speak because details of a possible extradition are still being worked out among the various countries, said Bonilla-Orozco is currently in the custody of Venezuela.
On Monday, during a visit to Caracas, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for the capture of Bonilla-Orozco, alias "El Valenciano."

"He is one of the most recognizable drug traffickers who has caused terrible damage to our country," Santos said during a joint news conference at the Miraflores palace in Caracas. "This shows that if we work together, if our police enforcement work together, we will get better results."

In a conciliatory tone toward a former foe, Chavez said his government hopes to work with Colombia on security issues.

"We will do everything we can to stop any attacks from Venezuelan soil into Colombia," he said.

CNN's Helena DeMoura contributed to this report.

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