ACCUSED COCAINE SMUGGLER IS EXTRADITED TO THE U.S.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - (AP) -- An ex-army captain accused of being one of the Dominican Republic's top cocaine smugglers was extradited to the United States Saturday to face drug trafficking and money laundering charges, his family said.
Quirino Paulino Castillo left Santo Domingo accompanied by U.S. authorities around midday aboard a plane bound for New York, a day after the Dominican Supreme Court ordered his extradition, his brother, Danilo Paulino said.
Paulino Castillo, 44, is to stand trial on five counts of drug smuggling and money laundering in U.S. District Court in New York.
He was arrested Dec. 18 in Santo Domingo while allegedly transporting 3,051 pounds of cocaine in a truck in what officials called one of the country's largest drug seizures. The arrest set off investigations into whether Paulino Castillo had help from top government officials. Four other Dominicans were charged in the case.
U.S. Ambassador Hans Hertell has said that top officials from the Dominican armed forces and anti-narcotics police force were implicated in drug smuggling.
Paulino Castillo maintained his innocence at a hearing Thursday, claiming he was framed by two senior military officers but refusing to publicly identify them.
Paulino Castillo joined the Dominican army in 2001 but was dismissed for "irregular behavior" in 2003, according to Santo Domingo District Attorney Jose Manuel Hernandez.
The Caribbean country of 8.8 million is a common transshipment point for South American cocaine bound for the United States.