Police Break Up Major Colombian Cocaine Ring
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Colombian and Venezuelan authorities have broken up a major narcotics ring with ties to the region’s cocaine cartels, police said Monday.
Bogota’s police chief, Col. Luis Felipe Montenegro, said security forces in recent days arrested 10 leaders of the ring, which allegedly smuggled cocaine into the United States and the Caribbean for the past decade.
Montenegro’s announcement came a day after police seized and destroyed 15,200 pounds of cocaine belonging to the ring, which maintained close contact with Colombia’s Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels, authorities said.
The drugs were found Sunday in the city of Monteria, about 310 miles north of Bogota, a police report said.
The arrests and drug confiscations occurred during searches for two anti- narcotics police officials kidnapped by traffickers earlier this year, the chief said.
The RCN radio network, citing unidentified police sources, reported late Monday that the two officials were murdered by their captors.
Also discovered on Sunday were two clandestine landing strips used by drug- smuggling planes, the police report said.
Police said it was the second major raid this year on the drug cartel operating on the northern Colombian coast. In February, security forces seized and burned about 5 tons of the ring’s cocaine ready to be smuggled out.
Montenegro said one of the group’s leaders, Dario Mendoza, was arrested over the weekend in neighboring Venezuela. He was reputed to be in charge of coordinating drug runs, especially to nearby Caribbean islands, the chief said.
The alleged leader of the group, Jeronimo Berrocal, was arrested in Colombia, Montenegro added.
Colombian security forces have seized cocaine and raided drug laboratories at a record pace this year. About 20 tons of the drug have been confiscated.
South American drug smugglers often use Venezuela as a transshipment point for sending cocaine to the United States and the Caribbean.