Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia drug lord 'Sebastian' arrested

Erickson Vargas, alias Sebastian, under arrest
Image caption Sebastian had ties with Mexican drug gangs, such as the Zetas

Colombian police have arrested one of the country's main drug lords, Erikson Vargas, who is also known as Sebastian.

He was the head of an underworld organisation called the "Office of Envigado", based in the Medellin area of northwestern Colombia.

Police said Sebastian was detained at his ranch in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

President Juan Manuel Santos described the arrest in Antioquia province as "a superblow to crime."

"A triple jump against that criminal network and a gold medal for the police for the arrest of alias Sebastian," Mr Santos said in a message on Twitter.

Erikson Vargas is believed to have taken command of the "Office of Envigado" (Oficina de Envigado) in November 2011, when its previous leader Maximiliano Bonilla, known as Valenciano, was arrested in Venezuela.

Colombia's Defence Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, said the organisation "killed more people than any other criminal network in Colombia in the last 10 years".

He said there was an extradition order against Sebastian and that the authorities intended to send him to face justice in the United States.

"Sebastian was the main target of the Colombian police. This is the hardest blow against Colombia's criminal organisations this year," said Mr Pinzon.

Escobar's heir

The organisation was set up by one of Colombia's most notorious drug lords, Pablo Escobar.

Its main job was that of collecting debts on behalf of the Medellin Cartel.

Those who failed to pay their debts were often brutally killed.

After the death of Escobar, shot dead by Colombian police in December 1993, the Envigado organisation expanded its activities.

Under the command of Escobar's heir, Diego Murillo, it grew into a multi-million dollar business, with a monthly income from drugs, extortion and money-laundering estimated at $20m (£13m) a month.

In 2008, Murillo, who also went by the alias Don Berna, was extradited to the US to face drug-trafficking charges.

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