May 23, 2012 / 11:33 PM / 5 years ago

Mexico extradites drug boss involved in corruption probe

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico extradited to the United States an alleged drug kingpin who has testified that high-ranking military officers worked with drug cartels, Mexican officials said Wednesday.

Sergio Villarreal, also known as "El Grande" and "King Kong," was flown to the United States where he faces federal charges of cocaine trafficking, the Mexican federal attorney general's office said in a news release.

Villarreal, who was arrested in 2010, is alleged to be a leading member of the Beltran Leyva cartel, a drug trafficking syndicate based in the Pacific state of Sinaloa.

While in Mexican detention, Villarreal testified that military officers received money from the Beltran Leyva cartel, a government security official said.

Last week, Mexican prosecutors ordered the arrest of four current or former military officers in connection with the accusations. The detentions were the biggest scandal in the Mexican military since President Felipe Calderon took power in 2006 and launched a military crackdown on cartels.

In the five years since Calderon took office there have been around 55,000 drug related killings and widespread accusations of human rights abuses by the military.

Reporting By Anahi Rama; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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