Colombian-U.S cooperation leads to guilty pleas by three international drug traffickers case
By Dialogo October 08, 2014
Three Colombian drug traffickers who conspired to use speedboats to traffic cocaine into the United States pleaded guilty October 3, marking the culmination of cooperative efforts by officials from both countries to bring them to justice.
Ángel Javier Varón Castro, 43; Luis Delio Herrera Astudillo, 45; and Eusebio David Webster Archbold, 33, entered their pleas in federal court in Washington, D.C. Their charges included one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
Those charges came after a 17-month investigation in which Colombian police cooperated with U.S. anti-drug agents to break up their drug trafficking group. Ultimately, they were able to record conversations, using phone taps, in which the defendants spoke about using two 12-meter go-fast boats to transport cocaine. The U.S. Coast Guard interdicted the vessels in international waters in February and April 2010, respectively, according to the U.S. Justice Department, leading to the arrests of the three traffickers.
“These defendants and their drug trafficking partners used seagoing vessels to inject vast quantities of cocaine into international commerce,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell. “But while drug traffickers may believe they can operate on the high seas with impunity, [the] convictions prove otherwise. Working with our international partners, we will bring to justice those who would flood our ports and, ultimately, our communities with dangerous narcotics.”
“[The] guilty pleas highlight our successful and vigorous partnership with Colombian law enforcement as we work to halt the flow of drugs heading north from the coast of Colombia.”
Those pleas took place before U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, who scheduled sentencing for January 9, 2015.
“The arrests and guilty pleas of these three international drug smugglers are the direct result of the resolute partnership between the DEA and our Colombian law enforcement partners,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a prepared statement. “This is another example of the fine work that DEA, prosecutors, and our partners around the globe accomplish every day.”
The guilty pleas mark yet another success of the U.S.-Colombia partnership in the counter-narcotics fight.
In May, Colombian and U.S. military units worked together to seize 2.3 metric tons of cocaine from a semi-submersible vessel and arrest its three-man crew about 43 miles off the South American country’s Pacific Coast. The seized drugs were worth an estimated $71 million (USD), according to police.
The operation marked the first time since 1993 that Colombian security forces seized a semi-submersible vessel transporting drugs while the crew was on board. The fiberglass vessel, which was about 13 meters long and two meters wide, had been traveling from Sanquianga, a national park in the department of Nariño, on the Pacific Coast near the border with Ecuador.
This is how you work, side-by-side, they are an example. Sea traffic control is very well controlled, I think the only way they have left would be to come in by land to Panamanian territory and continue their route through Central America, which makes their shipping costs higher, because they would have to bribe lots of authorities before reaching the border with the U.S.A. Little by little they're being corralled and the shipping costs become unprofitable, if the Central American authorities are able to bring technology to their police corps with staff that don't [fall for bribes] this would be achieved with a well-paid police career and lots of technical training, and work security. Colombia could give them great help in teaching and techniques to fight the drug trafficking organizations.