Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it was holding one of Colombia’s top drug kingpins, Luis Hernando Gomez Bustamante.
Bustamante, alias Rasguno, was captured when he entered the country July 2 on a false passport.
The top figure in the Northern Valle drug cartel was being held at an Interior Ministry center for crimes against state security, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
U.S. authorities describe Northern Valle cartel as Colombia’s largest and most-feared narcotics organization. The heir to the now-defunct Medellin and Cali cartels is accused of smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States during the past decade.
The United States has been offering a $5 million reward for information leading to Bustamante’s arrest.
He was indicted last May on charges of drug-trafficking, money-laundering and racketeering. If convicted on all counts, he could face life in prison.
However, there is no extradition agreement between Cuba and the United States, which has enforced economic sanctions against the island nation since October 1960.
Bustamante also is wanted in Colombia, but it was unclear whether Cuba would agree to turn him over to that country or try him in Cuba.
Friday, there were reports that if Bustamante were deported to Colombia, Colombian authorities planned to extradite him to the United States for trial.
Bustamante, 46, is one of several leading members of Colombia’s Northern Valle cartel.
Wilber Varela, 46, remains a fugitive in Colombia. Arcangel de Jesus Henoa Montoya, 49, was expelled to the United States from Panama earlier this year.
Another top cartel leader, Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez, also has a $5 million bounty on his head. The FBI’s Most Wanted listing describes him as armed and dangerous. The agency also said he gets protection from both right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing rebel groups.
In indictments for Bustamante and seven other leading cartel members, U.S. authorities allege he and his associates have smuggled at least 500 metric tons of cocaine with a wholesale value in excess of $10 billion into the United States since 1990.
The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates the street value of that cocaine to be at least $25 billion.
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