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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 03:07 GMT 04:07 UK
Colombia 'drug baron' sent to US
Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante at Bogota air base

Colombia has extradited a suspected drug baron to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante, 49, known as "Rasguno", or "Scratch", is an alleged head of Colombia's biggest drug cartel, Norte del Valle.

He was arrested in Cuba in July 2004 after entering on a false passport and returned to Colombia six months ago.

He was eager to go to the US, after receiving death threats in prison.

Other suspected drug traffickers feared that his evidence could be used to convict them.

He was flown by helicopter from the Combita maximum security prison to an air base near the capital, Bogota, on Thursday.

There he was handed over to US Drug Enforcement Administration officers.

Norte del Valle became Colombia's most powerful drugs organisation after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The head of Colombia's judicial police, Colonel Cesar Pinzon, said Mr Gomez was the "capo of capos".

According to the DEA, it is believed to be behind as much as 60% of all the cocaine consumed in the US.

Mr Gomez got his nickname when he laughed off a bullet wound to his cheek as "just a scratch".

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