US sentences Colombian drug lord Otoniel to 45 years in prison

Dairo Antonio Usuga David.

The leader of a prominent Colombian criminal group has been sentenced to 45 years in prison after pleading guilty to US drug trafficking charges.

US District Judge Dora Irizarry announced the sentence for Dairo Antonio Usuga David, better known as Otoniel, at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Prosecutors have called Otoniel, 51, who led the Clan del Golfo cartel, the most violent Colombian trafficker since Pablo Escobar.

They requested a 45-year sentence for Otoniel, saying he led a "terrorist and paramilitary organisation" for nearly two decades and passed over a chance to demobilise through a Colombian government-led peace process.

"He ordered the killing, kidnapping, and torture of rivals, as well as individuals he believed were cooperating with law enforcement," the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn said in court papers.

"The defendant's desire for control and revenge simply cannot be overstated."

Lawyers for Otoniel requested a prison term of no more than 25 years, saying he grew up poor and was forced to fight as a child soldier in Colombia's 60-year conflict among leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries, criminal groups and the government.

They also said he had accepted responsibility.

Clan del Golfo

Otoniel faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years.

Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, has more than 1,000 armed men, primarily former members of right-wing paramilitary groups.

Otoniel became its leader following stints as a left-wing guerrilla and later as a paramilitary.

Colombian armed forces arrested him near Panama's border in October 2021.

The country extradited him to the United States the following May, on the condition that he not receive a life sentence.

Despite manhunts and US and Colombian reward offers topping $5 million in total, Usuga long evaded capture, partly by rotating through a network of rural safe houses.

After his arrest, Gulf Clan members attempted a cyanide poisoning of a potential witness against him and tried to kill the witness’ lawyer, according to prosecutors.


Source: TRT