Colombian drug kingpin with a 5 million dollars US price tag on his head has been arrested in Venezuela and is to be extradited to the United States to face trafficking charges, officials said.
The arrest of Maximiliano Bonilla-Orozco at his home in Venezuela's third largest city of Valencia on Sunday was announced, perhaps not coincidentally, during a visit by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
After a five-hour meeting at the presidential palace, Santos thanked Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez for the welcome gift of capturing a very high-value drug trafficker who has caused terrible damage to our country.
Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami said Bonilla-Orozco, 39, would be extradited to the United States, where he was charged with drug trafficking in a 2008 indictment in a New York court.
The United States accuses Bonilla-Orozco of trafficking several tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States, and transporting more than 25 million dollars in drug-related proceeds from the United States to Mexico.
Maximiliano Bonilla-Orozco is the leader of an extensive trans-national narcotics exportation and transportation organization that distributes thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, through Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, to the United States, a US State Department profile says.
El Aissami said the decision to extradite Bonilla-Orozco to the United States was made jointly by Chavez and Santos and added that Venezuela would not be claiming the 5 million dollars reward offered by the US government.
”Bonilla-Orozco receives cocaine directly from various sources in Colombia, including the rebel group Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), and has dealt extensively with the violent Mexican drug trafficking organization, Los Zetas, the US State Department profile says.
El Aissami said Bonilla-Orozco would be extradited to the United States as soon as US authorities announce their willingness” to pick him up.
The move is unusual as Venezuela cut off anti-drug cooperation with the United States in 2009 and ties have been strained for years between Washington and Caracas.