Top Colombian drug trafficker captured
Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias Valenciano. The Colombian drug trafficker was captured in Venezuela, officials said Monday, Nov. 28, 2011. / GDA via AP Images
CARACAS, Venezuela - A top Colombian drug trafficker reputedly responsible for shipping tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico has been captured in Venezuela, officials said Monday.
The U.S. had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, also known as "Valenciano," who was also on Colombia's most-wanted list.
Colombian authorities told The Associated Press that Bonilla was captured on Sunday. The information was later confirmed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was in Venezuela meeting with President Hugo Chavez.
"He's one of the most recognized drug traffickers, who has caused terrible damage to our country," Santos told Chavez at the presidential palace, saying Bonilla's capture "had become truly a very high-value objective" for Colombian authorities.
"We know that your people, your authorities ... were after this individual for some time, and look how God is on our side, the coincidence that last night you captured him and today we can give this magnificent news," Santos said.
"This is a very good welcome gift," Santos told Chavez.
The Venezuelan leader called the arrest "a happy coincidence."
Both presidents said it was an example of increased cooperation between their authorities. It wasn't immediately clear how authorities tracked down Bonilla.
Chavez said he was captured in the central city of Valencia, while Colombian prosecutors said the arrest was made in the nearby city of Maracay.
Chavez said Bonilla was being brought to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and would then be handed over to Colombia.
U.S. officials allege Bonilla has sent tons of cocaine to the United States through Central America and Mexico, dealing extensively with Mexico's violent Zetas drug cartel.
Bonilla, 39, allegedly headed a Medellin-based criminal organization dating back to the 1980s that once recruited hit men for the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.
The U.S. State Department listed Bonilla among its eight most-wanted Colombian drug traffickers after leftist rebels.
Wanted on a 2008 federal indictment from New York's eastern district for drug trafficking, Bonilla received cocaine from various sources in Colombia, including the rebels, Colombian and U.S. officials say.
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