Two brothers who ran cartel plead guilty
Yahoo News, by CURT ANDERSON, Associated
Press Writer, 9-26-06
AFP. Miami. Gilberto y Miguel
Rodríguez Orejuela, ex jefes de la otrora banda
narcotraficante más grande del mundo, el cartel
de Cali, fueron condenados este martes a 30 años
de prisión en una corte federal de Miami tras
admitir haber exportado más de 200 mil kilos de
cocaína a Estados Unidos.trafficking
and money laundering charges in a complex deal
U.S. officials hailed as a major milestone in
the government's war on drugs.
As part of their
plea deal — reached after months of negotiations
with U.S. agencies — Gilberto Orejuela, 67, and
his brother Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, 63,
agreed to forfeit billions of dollars in assets
linked to their drug trade. Each was sentenced
to 30 years in a U.S. prison.
guilty pleas effectively signals the final,
fatal blow to the powerful Cali cartel,"
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a
Washington news conference. "This is a day of
pride for the people of Colombia and for
international law enforcement."
A separate deal
described in court will protect six of the
brothers' relatives in Colombia from prosecution
on obstruction of justice and money laundering
charges. That agreement also could permit 28
people with ties to the brothers to keep
property and other assets not tainted by drug
As described by
Gonzales and Adam J. Szubin, director of the
Foreign Assets Control office at the
the 28 people will be required to turn over any
assets acquired with drug trafficking. Once
those assets are surrendered, the Arejuela
family members could eventually be removed from
a U.S. list freezing their assets and blocking
them from doing business with U.S. entities.
Judge Federico Moreno accepted the guilty pleas
and approved the sentencing agreement between
prosecutors and defense lawyers.
agreed to forfeit to the United States $2.1
billion in assets linked to drug trafficking,
but the two probably made many times that amount
during the cartel's heyday in the 1990s. The
forfeited assets were detailed in an 11-page
list of items and included properties and
businesses around the world.
brother is being required to cooperate in any
ongoing or future criminal investigations,
according to the plea agreement.
"Are you sure?"
Moreno asked Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela as he
entered his plea.
"Very sure," he
replied, appearing with his brother wearing
pinstriped business suits instead of the usual
tan prison garb. They were shackled at the
The Cali cartel
became the world's leading cocaine smuggling
ring after eclipsing the rival Medellin cartel,
which fell apart when several top members were
arrested and Medellin top kingpin Pablo Escobar
was killed in a 1993 shootout with Colombian
The Cali cartel
was once responsible for as much as 80 percent
of the cocaine smuggled into the United States.
It was known for its ingenious smuggling
methods, hiding cocaine in such things as
hollowed-out lumber and cylinders of chlorine,
even shipments of frozen broccoli and okra.
known as "The Master" for his inventiveness in
finding new ways to hide drugs, while Gilberto's
nickname was "The Chess Player" for his role as
the cartel's strategic thinker. Their family
invested in dozens of legitimate businesses
around the world, including the Colombian
discount drug store chain Drogas La Rebaja.
Abadia, Miguel's son and Gilberto's nephew,
agreed to forfeit about $300 million in
worldwide assets after pleading guilty in March
to U.S. charges and agreeing to testify against
his father and uncle.
Orejuela brothers were convicted in Colombia of
drug charges in 1995, but were indicted in 2003
in Miami on charges that they continued to run
their cocaine empire from behind bars. Gilberto
Rodriguez Orejuela was extradited in late 2004
and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela in early 2005, the
highest-ranking of more than 300 drug
traffickers extradited since the U.S. and
Colombia signed a new treaty in 1997.
and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement
Administration agents and others have
investigated the Cali cartel since 1991,
resulting in more than 100 convictions, the
seizure of more than 50 tons of cocaine and $15
million in cash.
All told, the
Cali cartel is estimated to have smuggled more
than 250 tons of cocaine into the United States
since the 1970s. A recent DEA analysis said that
several Colombian organizations now control that
country's cocaine trade, increasingly in concert
with Mexican organizations that distribute the
drug in the United States.