BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuelan authorities deported a prominent drug-trafficking suspect to Colombia on Wednesday, nearly two months after his capture at a payphone in an operation aided by Colombian and U.S. authorities.
Officials called Daniel Barrera one of Colombia’s most-wanted drug lords. The bearded Barrera was handcuffed and said nothing as he stepped down from a police plane that brought him and five other drug suspects from Venezuela.
The Colombian had a false passport when he was captured Sept. 18 in the southwestern Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, Venezuelan Justice Minister Nestor Reverol said at Caracas’ airport as the suspects were led to a plane.
Barrera is known as “El Loco,” or “The Madman,” and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called him “the last of the great capos.”
Barrera was arrested after Colombian officials, who were working with U.S. and British authorities, notified Venezuela that Barrera was making a call from one of dozens of public phones that were being monitored, officials said. He was arrested at the payphone in front of a church.
Colombia police say Barrera had been in Venezuela since 2008 and had badly burned his fingers to erase his fingerprints and hide his identity.
Colombian police had offered a reward of about $2.5 million for information leading to his arrest.
Investigators have determined that Barrera owned about 127 properties and vehicles in Venezuela, including seven ranches, 16 apartments, 17 houses, 48 vehicles, a plane, a boat, 19 offices and four inns, Reverol told reporters. He said that all together they are valued at an estimated 143 million bolivars, or $33 million.
Eleven other people also have been detained for their links to Barrera, and five others are wanted, Reverol said.
U.S. and Colombian officials have alleged that Barrera’s gang supplies cocaine to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, which ships drugs to the United States.
The authorities have said Barrera operated in a swath of eastern Colombia including areas along the border in Venezuela, and had a drug smuggling alliance with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
Last year, U.S. authorities in Miami charged Barrera with illegal association to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
According to a 2010 grand jury indictment in U.S. District Court in New York, Barrera was both manufacturing and trafficking drugs on a large scale, buying raw cocaine paste from FARC rebels and converting it into cocaine at his labs in eastern Colombia. The indictment said that amounted to as much as 400 tons a year and that Barrera then arranged shipment of the drugs through Colombia and Venezuela to the United States, Europe and Africa.
Six other drug suspects were handed over to Colombian authorities Wednesday, included Jorge Cifuentes Villa and Eduardo Acosta Mejia.