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Colombia drug trafficker jailed

28 April 09 18:22 GMT

A Colombian drug trafficker implicated in the export of hundreds of tonnes of cocaine to the US has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Miami court.

Eugenio Montoya admitted he handled the finances for the North Valley cartel.

The gang dominated the cocaine trade after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1990s.

Montoya's eldest brother and alleged gang leader, Diego Montoya, is awaiting trial in the US after being captured by the Colombian military in late 2007.

Two members of the family have already been sentenced to long prison terms.

The FBI lists the group as the most powerful and violent drug-trafficking organisation in Colombia.

Lengthy manhunt

Eugenio Montoya, 39, had pleaded guilty in January to drug trafficking and obstruction of justice charges.

At his sentencing in Miami, he expressed remorse for his crimes.

"There is no justification for what I did," he said.

The capture of Montoya - who was known as Don Hugo - in January 2007 ended a lengthy manhunt during which the US had offered a $5m (£3.4m) reward for his arrest.

His arrest followed a shoot-out in one of the cartel's strongholds, the town of El Dovio, 200km (125 miles) west of the capital Bogota.

Officials in Colombia say the North Valley - or Norte del Valle - cartel became the country's most powerful after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1980s and early 1990s.

It was believed to be responsible for as much as 30% of the more than 500 metric tons of Colombian cocaine smuggled each year to the US.

The cartel has also been accused of having worked with right-wing death squads to protect its valuable drug routes.

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