A top Colombian drug trafficker known as ‘Valenciano’, reputedly responsible for shipping tons of cocaine to the US through Central America and Mexico, has been captured in Venezuela, according to officials.
Colombian authorities said that Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, also known as ‘Valenciano’, was captured on Sunday, information that was later confirmed by Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president.
The US had offered a $5 million (£3.2 million) reward for information leading to the arrest of Bonilla, who was also on Colombia’s most-wanted list.
“He’s one of the most recognised drug traffickers, who has caused terrible damage to our country,” Mr Santos told Hugo Chavez, his Venezuelan counterpart, who he was visiting, saying his capture “had become truly a very high-value objective” for Colombian authorities.
“We know that your people, your authorities … were after this individual for some time, and look how God is on our side, the coincidence that last night you captured him and today we can give this magnificent news,” Mr Santos said.
“This is a very good welcome gift,” Mr Santos told Mr Chavez.
The Venezuelan leader called the arrest “a happy coincidence.”
Both presidents said it was an example of increased co-operation between their authorities. It was not immediately clear how authorities tracked down Bonilla.Mr Chavez said he was captured in the central city of Valencia, while Colombian prosecutors said the arrest was made in the nearby city of Maracay.
Mr Chavez said Bonilla was being brought to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and would then be handed over to Colombia.
US officials allege Bonilla has sent tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico, dealing extensively with Mexico’s violent Zetas drug cartel.
Bonilla, 39, allegedly headed a Medellin-based criminal organisation dating back to the 1980s that once recruited hit men for the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.
The US State Department listed Bonilla among its eight most-wanted Colombian drug traffickers after leftist rebels.
Wanted on a 2008 federal indictment from New York’s eastern district for drug trafficking, Bonilla received cocaine from various sources in Colombia, including the rebels, Colombian and US officials say.