DRUG LORDS STRIPPED OF $280M IN ASSETS
Colombia Seizes Firms, Homes, Drug Store Chain
MEDELLIN, Colombia - Two of Colombia's most powerful drug lords were
trapped in prison cells yesterday, as the state seized their fortune
estimated at more than $280 million.
About 3,200 police and more than 450 prosecutors took assets belonging
to brothers Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, the heads of the
Cali drug cartel, which before their arrest in 1995 was one of the
most powerful and sophisticated crime syndicates in the world.
"This is the largest asset seizure operation in the history of the
country," said a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
Among the 3,000 assets being occupied by the state are houses,
companies and a national chain of pharmacies, Droga La Rebaja. All 432
branches of the chain, which means "Discount Drugs" in English, have
been taken over by the state.
The seizures are part of an economic offensive by President Alvaro
Uribe. He passed legislation allowing for the speedy confiscation and
sale of assets derived from the profits of drugs trafficking.
The government needs to sell the drug barons' properties to fill a
gaping hole in the budget as the president fights a relentless war
against the warring factions that have been trying to overthrow the
state for 40 years.
As the authorities prepared for the seizure, Gilberto Rodriguez
Orejuela, known in the underworld as the "Chess Player" for his
ability to plan ahead of his opponents, was in court again. Surrounded
by 15 heavily armed prison guards, he was answering charges of
organizing from his prison cell a consignment to the United States of
150 kilograms of cocaine. His brother has already been convicted on
the same charges.
Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela's son, William, is wanted on drug