Reputed Colombian Drug Lord Gets 30 Years

Colombia's Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia arrives to a federal police station after being arrested in Sao Paulo, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007.
AP
A reputed Colombian drug lord whose cartel is accused of having shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States was sentenced Tuesday to more than 30 years in prison in Brazil for crimes commmitted in that country.

Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, who was arrested last year in Brazil, was found guilty of money laundering, corruption, conspiracy and use of false documents in this South American country. Besides the sentence, Ramirez Abadia must also pay a fine worth US$2.5 million.

"It was proved that after July of 2004, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia has channeled his business in Brazil mainly toward the acquisition of properties, vehicles, and other objects using the money resulting from drug trafficking in Colombia," Judge Fausto Martin de Sanctis said in a statement.

But Ramirez Abadia, who is also known as "Chupeta" or "Lollipop," may not have to serve time in Brazil.

Last month, Brazil's Supreme Court ruled he can be extradited to the United States to face racketeering charges. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will have the final word on whether he stays in Brazil to serve his sentence or is extradited immediately to the United States.

In his ruling, the judge advised against extraditing Ramirez Abadia until he has served his time in Brazil.

Ramirez Abadia, who is reputedly a leader of Colombia's powerful Norte del Valle cartel, has said he wants to begin his confinement in the United States as quickly as possible.

Brazil's Supreme Court has said the United States must agree not to sentence Ramirez Abadia to more than 30 years in jail, the maximum allowed under Brazilian law, in order for the extradition to take place.

Ramirez Abadia's wife, Yessica Paolo Rojas Morales, was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison for her participation in Ramirez Abadia's operations. Eight other people were also convicted.

Last fall, U.S. officials sought Ramirez Abadia's extradition to face racketeering charges under a 2004 indictment - charges that could bring a lengthy sentence but not the death penalty. His cartel allegedly shipped 550 tons of cocaine to the United States from 1990 to 2003.

In the U.S. indictment, Ramirez Abadia and other gang members were accused of routinely killing their rivals and individuals who failed to pay for drugs. He also was accused of killing a gang member he suspected was an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

The Colombian has acknowledged using profits from cocaine shipments to buy businesses that police say included cattle ranches, industrial property, mansions and hotels.

Ramirez Abadia claims he left Colombia for Brazil because he feared he might be killed by rival drug gang members and said he was not involved in drug trafficking in Brazil.

In January, he offered to hand over tens of millions of dollars in exchange for a quick extradition to the United States and his wife's release from jail, but the offer was rejected and ordered him to turn over all his assets without setting conditions.