December 15, 2011 / 12:32 AM / 9 years ago

Venezuela to send drug kingpin to U.S.: source

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will extradite one of the region’s most-wanted drug traffickers to the United States on Thursday, a Venezuelan government source said.

Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, a 39-year-old Colombian who had a $5 million bounty on his head and was better known by his alias Valenciano, was captured in the central Venezuelan city of Valencia late last month.

His arrest had been announced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, who touted it as proof their ideologically-opposed governments were united in the fight against organized crime.

He is accused of shipping tonnes of cocaine to the United States with the help of Mexico’s feared Zetas cartel.

“The DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) is coming to take him to the United States,” a source at Venezuela’s Justice Minister told Reuters on Wednesday.

According to U.S. authorities, Valenciano’s gang used a network of warehouses and front companies producing legitimate goods to mask the transport of illegal narcotics.

Venezuela’s government says it has greatly increased its number of arrests of traffickers and its seizures of drugs since it expelled DEA officials from the South American country in 2005, accusing them of spying.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; writing by Daniel Wallis, editing by Anthony Boadle

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