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Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Saturday, 18 October 2008 11:40 UK

Colombian drug baron admits guilt

Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante at Bogota air base
Mr Gomez's drug cartel is responsible for up to 60% of cocaine in the US

A Colombian drugs trafficker has admitted being one of the leaders of a powerful cartel that smuggled $10bn worth (5.8bn) of cocaine into the US.

Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante pleaded guilty at a court in Washington to charges of racketeering as a member of the Norte del Valle cartel.

The US authorities accuse the group of murder, bribery and money laundering.

Mr Gomez will not face a life sentence as part of an extradition agreement with Colombia.

Mr Gomez, also known as "Scratch" and "Rasguno", admitted sending more than 500,000 kilograms (1.1 million pounds) of cocaine to the US from Colombia through Mexico between 1990 and 2004.

The 50-year-old has also admitted taking part in a conspiracy to make and distribute more than 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of cocaine destined for the US.

'Terrorist support'

The Norte del Valle cartel became the most powerful drugs organisations in Colombia after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1980s and early 90s.

It is believed to be responsible for up to 60% of all the cocaine consumed in the US.

US authorities say the cartel used the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) - a right-wing paramilitary group, labelled a terrorist organisation by the US state department - for its protection.

Mr Gomez was arrested in Cuba in July 2004 after two years as a fugitive. In 2007, he was sent back to Colombia and then extradited to the US.

He was reportedly 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.

In June, he pleaded guilty to separate drug trafficking conspiracy charges and faces a 10 year prison sentence.

Due to an extradition agreement with Colombia, US prosecutors cannot seek a life sentence for him but say they will ask for a multi-year prison term.




SEE ALSO
Colombian 'drug lord' is captured
11 Sep 07 |  Americas
Colombia 'drug baron' sent to US
20 Jul 07 |  Americas
Cuba deports suspected drug baron
09 Feb 07 |  Americas
Cuba seizes Colombia 'drug chief'
09 Jul 04 |  Americas

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