QUITO – Ramon Quintero Sanclemente, suspected head of a significant Colombian drug cartel, was arrested in Quito in a joint operation between the Ecuadorian and Colombian police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Quintero was arrested by the DEA and Ecuador’s ULCO organized crime agency at a restaurant on Quito’s north side and will be extradited to Colombia, Ecuavisa television reported Tuesday.
He is suspected of being the leader of Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel and of having links to Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.
Colombia’s National Police confirmed the arrest on Tuesday, saying that Quintero was nabbed in a coordinated action between the Colombian police, which was in charge of intelligence, and the Ecuadorian police, which carried out the arrest.
Quintero’s organization stands accused of using ports in Colombia’s Pacific and Caribbean regions to ship cocaine to the United States and Spain.
According to Colombian authorities, Quintero was once a partner and friend of Norte de Valle leader Wilber Varela, alias “Jabon,” who was killed in Venezuela in January 2008.
The file that Colombian authorities maintain on Quintero indicates that he was born on Nov. 30, 1958, in the southwestern town of Buga and owns luxury homes, vehicles and front companies in Bogota, Cali, Monteria and Barranquilla.
They added that a powerful group of enforcers known in Colombia as “the gang of 19” was operating under his command in southwestern Colombia.
Colombian authorities also said Quintero’s organization had managed to infiltrate the Colombian government’s security forces and thereby evade arrest and prosecution.
Arrest warrants had been issued in Colombia for Quintero on illicit enrichment and criminal conspiracy charges and he is also is wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Known by the alias “Lucas” or “RQ,” Quintero is considered one of Colombia’s leading drug traffickers and is believed to have escaped to Ecuador in recent days after Colombian authorities struck a blow to a narcotics-trafficking network in which he was purportedly involved, the Ecuadorinmediato news Web site said.
In January, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Quintero as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker, citing the significant role he plays in international narcotics trafficking centered in Colombia, the world’s leading producer of cocaine.
Wednesday June 9,2010