Colombian authorities captured an alleged top leader of the powerful Norte del Valle cocaine cartel who is wanted by a New York court for drug trafficking and money laundering, police said Sunday.
Jhon Cano was arrested at a country home in northwest Colombia Saturday afternoon after 25 police agents on the ground and a helicopter gunship stormed the ranch, Colombian Judicial Police Chief Col. Oscar Naranjo told a news conference.
Cano is considered the No. 3 man in the Norte del Valle cartel, which authorities believe has been responsible for half of all the cocaine shipped to the United States in the past decade, Naranjo said.
The cartel's leader and founder, Diego Montoya, and its No. 2 man Wilber Varela remain on the loose. Montoya is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 most wanted list alongside Osama bin Laden.
"Cano was really in charge of running the business. Everything from the financing to finding new smuggling routes was done by him," Naranjo told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the press conference.
Cano moved up to the No. 3 spot in the cartel in July in 2004 when authorities in Cuba arrested another Norte del Valle leader, Luis Hernando Bustamante, as he tried to make his way to Mexico, Naranjo said. Bustamante remains in a Cuban prison.
A New York court in 2003 requested Cano's extradition to the United States on 10 drug-related charges and the same court last year issued an arrest warrant for him, according to a statement from the Colombian police. U.S. authorities had offered a reward of up to US$5 million (-4 million) for Cano's capture.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota were not immediately available for comment.
Cano had been holed up at the ranch for the past four months, Naranjo said, guarded by 20 members of the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, an illegal armed group that has been negotiating a peace agreement with the government but is still heavily involved in drug trafficking. AP reported. V.A.