MAIQUETIA, Venezuela, (Reuters) – Venezuela handed over to U.S. officials yesterday Carlos “Beto” Renteria, one of the world’s most wanted alleged cocaine smugglers, after its soldiers arrested him with help from British agents.
The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Renteria, the last free leader of Colombia’s top drug gang, the Norte del Valle cartel.
The U.S. government called the extradition “valuable and positive.”
A 2004 U.S. indictment accused the cartel of exporting 500 tonnes of cocaine to the United States in the 1990s but it has been weakened with the arrest or death of all its top “capos”.
A scruffily dressed and weak-looking Renteria, who may have undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance, was escorted by heavily armed police in body armor and delivered to a waiting U.S. plane at Venezuela’s main airport near Caracas.
Apparently to hide his face, he kept his head down, showing wispy gray hair, as he shuffled to the U.S. plane. Also extradited were fellow drug suspects, Carlos Alberto Ojeda and Luis Frank Tello, who yelled in protest as they were led away.
“Like never before, we have hit mafias and criminal organizations dedicated to illegal drug trafficking,” said Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarek al Aissami. “We are next to the main producer of drugs in the world (Colombia), and next to the world’s top consumer — the United States.”