Colombian Drug Lord Dairo Antonio Úsuga Receives 45-Year Sentence

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Dairo Antonio Úsuga, known by his alias Otoniel, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison. The notorious cocaine trafficker and leader of Colombia’s most powerful gang for over nine years pleaded guilty to running a criminal enterprise and drug smuggling earlier this year.

During his sentencing on Tuesday, the 51-year-old expressed remorse for his actions, apologizing to both the United States and Colombian governments, as well as the victims of his crimes.

Described by prosecutors as “the most significant Colombian narcotics trafficker since Pablo Escobar,” Úsuga was involved in smuggling nearly 100,000 kilograms (220,500 pounds) of cocaine to the US. The US Drug Enforcement Administration labeled him as “one of the most violent and prolific drug traffickers in the world.”

Arrested in 2021 and extradited to the US last year, Úsuga’s lawyers argued for a maximum sentence of 25 years. They attributed his criminal path to his upbringing in rural poverty amidst guerrilla warfare. However, Judge Dora Irizarry, presiding over the case, rejected this argument, drawing a parallel to her own upbringing in a South Bronx housing complex surrounded by drugs and violence that did not lead her astray.

As part of his guilty plea, Úsuga has forfeited $216 million (£170 million) in drug proceeds.

Formerly at the helm of the Gulf Clan cartel in Colombia, one of the country’s most potent and brutal gangs, Úsuga’s criminal activities encompassed drug and human smuggling, illegal gold mining, and extortion. The gang exerts control over key drug smuggling routes from Colombia to the US and has international connections spanning even as far as Russia.

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