SANTO DOMINGO – A Colombian who allegedly smuggled drugs into the United States for the defunct Cali drug cartel was arrested and immediately turned over to U.S. authorities, the Dominican Republic’s DNCD drug enforcement agency said.
Luis Santacruz Echeverri, half-brother of late Cali cartel boss Jose Santacruz Londoño, was arrested in downtown Santo Domingo, where he lived in a villa in the tourist enclave of Juan Dolio, east of the capital, the DNCD said.
Santacruz Londoño, known as “Chepe” and “El Estudiante,” broke out of prison in January 1996 but was shot dead three months later by police in the northwestern Colombian city of Medellin.
Santacruz Echeverri, who faces drug charges in New York, was the head of a criminal organization that used air drops to smuggle cocaine into the southern and northeastern Dominican Republic, the DNCD said, adding that he had lived in the country for several months.
The suspect was carrying several documents, including a Venezuelan residency card and driver’s license, Colombian residency card and driver’s license, and a paper with aircraft navigation coordinates, indicating that he was making arrangements for a drop of cocaine or heroin, officials said.
Santacruz Echeverri has links to Mexican national Antonio Valencia Zapata, who was arrested three months ago on a highway in the Dominican Republic while transporting 97 kilos of cocaine, the DNCD said.
The Cali cartel’s founders, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, known as “The Chess Master,” and his brother, Miguel, were extradited by Colombia to the United States in 2004 and 2005, respectively, on drug charges.
The Rodriguez Orejuela brothers reached an agreement with U.S. authorities to hand over assets worth $2 billion.
The Cali cartel was considered the world’s largest drug trafficking organization by the early 1990s, smuggling an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States. EFE