Reputed Cali Cartel Aide Arrested
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A former army sergeant suspected of becoming a key aide to the leaders of the powerful Cali cocaine cartel was captured Sunday, authorities said.
Jose Arnoldo Estrada was arrested on a farm near the northwestern city of Medellin, said Col. Jorge Pineda, comander of a special security force that is hunting cartel leaders.
Estrada faces charges of illegal enrichment. His wife, Alba Marin, also was detained.
Colombia is cracking down on the Cali cartel, the world’s biggest cocaine gang, under pressure from the United States. Six men accused of being leaders of the cartel have been jailed since June.
President Ernesto Samper’s government has been damaged by allegations that his 1994 election campaign accepted millions of dollars from the cartel. A congressional commission is investigating Samper at his own request.
Cali cartel financial chief Guillermo Pallomari, who surrendered to U.S. drug agents in Washington weeks ago, could offer vital information in the investigation of Samper’s campaign. The arrest was reported Tuesday.
Pallomari reportedly provided U.S. officials with statements and documents about cartel corruption of Colombian politics. He gave some of the information to two Colombian prosecutors who interviewed him two weeks ago, the Bogota newspaper El Espectador reported Sunday.
Authorities described Estrada, who was flown to Cali in a military plane, as a confidant of Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, brothers who reputedly founded the Cali cartel.
Estrada is a cartel front man who worked his way up the cartel ranks in the 1980s, handling security for drug kingpins as well as chemical shipments to cocaine laboratories, according to Pineda.