BOGOTA – Four major drug traffickers were arrested in Argentina, Colombia and the United States in an international operation targeting members of a large criminal organization that smuggled drugs and laundered money in several countries, police said.
Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, a Colombian national, was arrested a month ago in Argentina, marking the first blow against the organization.
Caicedo’s gang became a leading drug trafficking organization after the dismantling more than a decade ago of the Medellin and Cali cartels, police spokesmen said.
A second suspect, identified as Claudio Javier Silva Otalora, was arrested last week in Puerto Gaitan, a city in eastern Colombia, during the first phase of “Operation Pacific Basin.”
Franklin Alain Gaitan Marentes was arrested over the weekend in Bogota, while Ricardo Villarraga Franco was detained over the weekend in Miami.
The suspects were linked to two huge shipments of cash seized in Colombia and Mexico last year, Criminal Investigation Administration, or Dijin, chief Gen. Luis Gilberto Ramirez Calle said.
The first shipment, which totaled $27.7 million, was seized in September 2009 in Buenaventura, Colombia’s main Pacific port, and a shipment of $11 million was confiscated a few days later in Manzanillo, Mexico.
We are talking about the most important operation of the past 15 years with respect to drug trafficking in Colombia, Ramirez Calle said.
Evidence obtained by investigators indicates that Daniel Barrera Barrera, known as “El Loco Barrera,” and brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna are members of the second echelon of the criminal organization run by Caicedo Velandia.
Barrera and the Calle Serna brothers, among the most-wanted men in Colombia, work together to smuggle cocaine into Europe, North America, Central America and South America, police said.
Colombia’s Unaim drug control agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and law enforcement agencies from several other countries worked together on the first phase of Operation Pacific Basin.
We have been working on this operation with the Attorney General’s Office and authorities in other countries, Ramirez Calle said.
Thursday June 10,2010