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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 10:00 GMT
US goes after Cali cocaine bosses
Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was known in the drugs underworld as the chess player
Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was re-arrested earlier this year
US authorities have filed extradition requests for two of Colombia's most notorious drug traffickers.

Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela ran the Cali cartel, which dominated the world's cocaine trade in the 1990s.

The extradition order alleges they have continued to run their empire from their prison cells in Colombia, where they have been confined since 1995.

President Alvaro Uribe is expected to authorise the request, which must also go through the supreme court.

The Rodriguez Orejuela brothers are charged with smuggling 55 tonnes of cocaine, laundering about $2bn and silencing those who might testify against them, either through bribery or by murder.

The US indictment alleges the brothers ran the cartel through Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela's son William Rodriguez Abadia

Crop-spraying plane
The Colombian Government is trying to eradicate drug crops
If the request goes ahead, the brothers would become the highest-profile drug lords to be sent to the US to face justice since Colombia lifted a ban on extradition in 1997.

President Uribe has stepped up the pace of extradition of drug smugglers to the US, where they face tougher jail sentences than in Colombia.

'The chess player'

Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, known in the drugs underworld as "the chess player" for his ability to outwit opponents, was released from prison last year for good behaviour. He had served a seven-year sentence.

But he was re-arrested on an order from the president that he be put back "behind bars".

He was subsequently convicted of being involved in the smuggling of 150 kilograms of cocaine to the US via Costa Rica in 1995.

The recapture of Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was welcomed by the US, which long pushed for the brothers to be extradited.

However, many of the crimes that the US charging the brothers with pre-dated the 1997 order by the Colombian government to reintroduce extradition.

The Rodriguez Orejuela brothers are thought to have once controlled 80% of the world's supply of cocaine in the early 1990s.

They obtained the monopoly of the multi-billion dollar industry after rival drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed by police in 1993.

Escobar had run the Medellin cocaine cartel.

In 2001, Colombia extradited to the US a former leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel. Fabio Ochoa was sentenced by a court in Miami to 30 years in prison.

Q&A: US involvement in Colombia
24 Apr 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Colombia
12 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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