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News > Latin America

Captured in Colombia: One of the World's Most Wanted Narcs

  • Drug lord Juan Carlos Mesa-Vallejo, alias

    Drug lord Juan Carlos Mesa-Vallejo, alias "Tom," is escorted by officers at police headquarters in Medellin, Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 December 2017
Opinion

The United States offered a $2 million reward for the capture of Mesa-Vajello, wanted for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder while wresting control of Medellin's criminal underworld.

One of the world's most wanted drug lords – Juan Carlos Mesa-Vajello, alias "Tom" – has been captured by police in Colombia at a party to celebrate his 50th birthday.

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The United States had offered a $2 million reward for the capture of Mesa-Vajello, who was wanted by Colombian authorities for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder while attempting to wrest control of Medellin's criminal underworld.

Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas described Mesa-Vajello's detention as "one of the most powerful blows against drug trafficking this year" on his Twitter account Saturday.

The arrest was carried out by special forces at a luxury estate in the El Penol municipality, Antioquia province, of which Medellin is the capital. Police seized weapons; US$14,000 in cash; 80 million pesos; jewelry, and seven high-end cars.

Mesa-Vajello, a native Colombian who stands just 5'5" tall, had been celebrating his birthday in the company of Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez – also known as "Popeye" – one of Pablo Escobar's former lieutenants, who has served 23 years and 3 months in jail, El Tiempo reports.

Since 2012, the notorious narcotics kingpin has been head of La Oficina de Envigado, a major drug-trafficking and money laundering cartel based in Medellin. He replaced Ericson Vargas-Cardona, alias "Sebastian," who had just been captured.

Under Mesa-Vallejo's leadership, La Oficina de Envigado had become more centralized, establishing strong alliances with former rivals and significant transnational drug traffickers, according to the U.S. State Department, which may seek to extradite him.

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