An accused Colombian drug kingpin who for the past four years has been fighting extradition to the United States was flown by federal authorities to Miami on Thursday to face a cocaine smuggling and distribution charge.
Henry De Jesus Lopez Londoño, charged with a half-dozen other defendants in Miami federal court, was extradited from Argentina, where he had fled and was arrested in October 2012. Before his capture, he had been a leader of the right-wing Colombian paramilitary group known as the AUC.
His defense attorney, Arturo Hernandez, said Lopez Londoño is expected to have his first appearance in Miami federal court on Friday. The case may go to trial.
Lopez Londoño, known as “Mi Sangre” (My Blood), was the head of the Urabenos gang in northern Colombia, according to published reports.
In February 2012, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on a charge of conspiring to import and distribute multiple kilos of cocaine into the United States dating back to 2006. The offense carries up to life in prison.
Four of the six co-conspirators charged in the same indictment have pleaded guilty to obtain shorter prison sentences, ranging from 5 to 14 years.
In Argentina, police said Lopez Londoño held passports from seven countries to evade capture, and that he had entered the country with a false passport while posing as a Venezuelan businessman. There, his petition seeking asylum was rejected.
Argentine officials said he was taken by helicopter from a prison near the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, to a nearby airport, where he was put on a plane to the United States on Thursday morning.
Interpol agents, U.S. marshals and Argentine police were all involved in the high-security operation.
The BBC contributed to this report.