Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 12:27 UK

Brazil jails Colombia drug baron

Ramirez Abadia
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia faces drug trafficking charges in the US

The leader of one of Colombia's most powerful drug cartels has been given a 30-year jail sentence in Brazil.

Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, also known as Lollypop, was found guilty of money laundering, corruption, conspiracy and use of false documents in Brazil.

He wants to serve his time in the US - where he faces racketeering charges - partly because he is said to fear for his life if he returns to Colombia.

The judge advised against extradition until he has served his sentence.

$2.5m fine

Brazil's Supreme Court has already said Ramirez Abadia can be extradited but only if it receives assurances he would not face the death penalty. President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has the final word.

Ramirez Abadia was detained in a raid near Sao Paulo last August as part of a major investigation into the Norte del Valle cartel, which is accused of sending huge amounts of cocaine to the US and Europe, and laundering the proceeds by buying up property in Brazil.

Besides the jail term, Mr Ramirez Abadia must also pay a fine worth $2.5 million (1.26 million).

His wife, Yessica Paola Rojas Morales, was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison for the role she played in her husband's operations. Eight other people were convicted.

False identity

"It was proved that after July of 2004, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia has channelled his business in Brazil mainly towards the acquisition of properties, vehicles, and other objects using the money resulting from drug trafficking in Colombia," Judge Fausto Martin de Sanctis said in a statement.

Members of the Brazilian Landless Workers movement seize one of Ramirez Abadia's ranches in Guaiba (21 January 2008)
Brazil confiscated and sold many of Ramirez Abadia's properties

"All his assets, even what he brought to Brazil and here invested using false identity, must be considered as profit or product of crime," Judge Sanctis said.

Ramirez Abadia has actively sought extradition to the US where he is accused of drug trafficking, money laundering and 15 murders, partly because he is said to fear for his life if he returns to Colombia.

He has been accused of involvement in the illegal drugs trade since 1986, surrendering to a Colombian court in 1996 but was released from prison in 2002.

The US has described Ramirez Abadia as one of Colombia's most powerful and elusive drug traffickers and he is suspected of ordering hundreds of murders in Colombia and the US.

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