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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 20:55 GMT 21:55 UK
Cuba seizes Colombia 'drug chief'
Seized packages of cocaine
Up to 50% of cocaine on America's streets comes from the gang
Colombian police say one of the country's biggest drug-traffickers has been captured in Cuba.

Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante, who is also wanted by the US, was arrested after entering Cuba on a false Venezuelan passport, police said.

Mr Gomez Bustamante is an alleged head of the Cali-based Norte del Valle gang that is suspected of smuggling some $10bn worth of cocaine into the US.

US officials had offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture.

Killings

Colombian police chief Gen Jorge Daniel Castro told a news conference that Mr Gomez Bustamante, better known by his alias "Rasguno" or "Scratch", was arrested on 2 July.

"He entered the island on a false Venezuelan passport. At this moment he is being held by the attorney-general in Cuba and we are involved in discussions to bring him back to Colombia," Gen Castro said.

Cuba's official media has not reported on his arrest.

Colombian soldiers
Police confiscated numerous properties in raids in March
Mr Gomez Bustamante is accused of being one of the top leaders of the Norte del Valle cartel, which supplanted the notorious Medellin and Cali drug gangs in the early 1990s.

If Mr Gomez Bustamante is returned to Colombia, he will join a long list of suspected drug-traffickers whose extradition is sought by the US government.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration estimates his gang has sent more than 500,000kg of cocaine with an estimated value of $10bn from Colombia's Pacific coast to the US through Mexico since 1990.

The cartel, which is believed to supply between 30% and 50% of the cocaine entering the US, is also accused of hundreds of killings.

In March this year, Colombian police re-established an elite police unit to go after the Norte del Valle gang.

In a major operation, the special force confiscated some $100m in goods and property.




SEE ALSO:
Colombia cartel raid nets $100m
11 Mar 04  |  Americas
New cartel crackdown in Colombia
05 Mar 04  |  Americas
Colombia militants on drugs list
20 Feb 04  |  Americas
Top Colombian drug suspect seized
11 Jan 04  |  Americas
Colombia 'drugs baron' surrenders
28 Dec 03  |  Americas
US goes after Cali cocaine bosses
24 Dec 03  |  Americas


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