Top Colombian Drug Trafficker Captured

Published November 28, 2011 5:09PM (EST)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A top Colombian drug trafficker reputedly responsible for shipping tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico has been captured, Colombian authorities said Monday.

The U.S. had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, also known as "Valenciano," who was also on Colombia's most-wanted list.

Colombian authorities told The Associated Press that Bonilla was captured on Sunday. The information was later confirmed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was in Venezuela meeting with President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez said Bonilla was being brought to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and would then be handed over to Colombia.

Both presidents called the arrest an example of increased cooperation between their authorities.

U.S. officials allege Bonilla has sent tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico, dealing extensively with Mexico's violent Zetas drug cartel.

Bonilla, 39, headed a Medellin-based criminal organization dating back to the 1980s that once recruited hit men for the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

The U.S. State Department listed Bonilla among its eight most-wanted Colombian drug traffickers after leftist rebels.

Wanted on a 2008 federal indictment from New York's eastern district for drug trafficking, Bonilla received cocaine from various sources in Colombia, including leftist rebels, Colombian and U.S. officials say.


Associated Press writers Vivian Sequera and Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.

By Salon Staff

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