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Drug-trafficking and money laundering chief extradited to the US

afrol News, 4 September - The US attorney for the Southern District of New York, has announced the arrival of Jesus Eduardo Valencia-Arbelaez, aka "Padre," or "Pat," who was extradited from Romania to face cocaine trafficking and money laundering charges.

According to the superseding indictment filed on 7 July, this year, and other filed court documents, Mr Valencia-Arbelaez was a leader of a sophisticated international cocaine trafficking organisation based in Colombia and Venezuela that operated worldwide, including a number of African states such as in Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry, Mauritania, and Mali.

According to the filed papers, beginning September 2007, members of the Organization sought to purchase a cargo airplane for the purpose of transporting metric tons of cocaine from Venezuela to West Africa and between September 2007 and March 2009, Manuel Silva-Jaramillo, a member of the Organization arrested earlier this year, conducted meetings in connection with the Organization's efforts to acquire the airplane in, among other places, Madrid, New York and Virginia.

Mr Silva-Jaramillo is further alleged to have arranged to finance the purchase of the airplane through a corporation based in Cyprus and to register it in Sierra Leone.

In a meeting in Europe in October 2007, Mr Silva-Jaramillo reportedly delivered more than 1.25 million Euros in cash - drug proceeds that represented a partial payment towards the airplane - which he instructed were to be wire-transferred to different bank accounts in the United States. During one of these meetings which was recorded, Mr Silva-Jaramillo is also said to have stated that the Organization had between 30 and 60 million Euros in Spain that it needed to launder.

Mr Valencia-Arbelaez is the fifth member of the Organization to have been arrested and brought to the United States to face narcotics conspiracy charges. In April 2009, Geraldo Quintana-Perez, aka "El Viejo," aka "German Quintero," and Harvey Steven Perez, aka "Miguel," were transferred from Sierra Leone to the United States, marking the first ever such transfer of defendants between the two countries. In June 2009, Javier Caro, aka "William Zabieh," aka "El Ingeniero," aka "Javier Gonzalez," was also transferred to US custody from the government of Togo and also in June 2009, Silva-Jaramillo was arrested following a visit to the Dominican Republic.

Mr Valencia-Arbelaez, 43, and Silva-Jaramillo, 55, are both charged with conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine in the United States; conspiring to import at least five kilograms of cocaine into the United States; and conspiring to launder narcotics proceeds. If convicted, each face life in prison for the drug charges and 20 years in prison for the money laundering charge. The remaining three defendants - Quintana-Perez, Perez and Caro - are charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine in the United States.

"Valencia-Arbelaez is charged with participating in a highly sophisticated drug-trafficking network whose criminal activities spanned the globe," said US Attorney Preet Bharara. "Whether operating in Latin America, West Africa, Europe, or the United States, his Organization distributed vast quantities of cocaine and generated millions of dollars worth of illicit proceeds. Valencia-Arbelaez's extradition today reflects the remarkable successes that cooperation between the United States and its partners can produce in our joint efforts to combat drug-trafficking and money-laundering crimes. We will bring drug kingpins to justice wherever in the world they may be found," he added.

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