updated 8/20/2008 4:13:56 PM ET 2008-08-20T20:13:56

Brazil's Justice Ministry said Wednesday it approved the extradition of Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia to the United States to face racketeering charges.

The announcement came six months after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ramirez Abadia's extradition.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has the final say on extradition of Ramirez Abadia, who has been accused of leading Colombia's powerful Norte del Valle cartel. No timetable for Silva's decision has been set.

American officials last fall sought extradition of Ramirez Abadia to face racketeering charges under a 2004 indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. The charges that could bring a lengthy sentence but not the death penalty.

Ramirez Abadia acknowledged trafficking cocaine, and prosecutors say his Norte de Valle cartel shipped 500 metric tons of cocaine to the United States from 1990 to 2003.

In the U.S. indictment, Ramirez Abadia and other gang members were accused of routinely killing rivals and individuals who failed to pay for drugs. He also was accused of killing a gang member he suspected was an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ramirez Abadia fled to Brazil four years ago after a drug conviction in Colombia and allegedly ran the cartel's money laundering operation here.

He was captured in Brazil last year. A judge found him guilty of money laundering, corruption, conspiracy and use of false documents.

Ramirez-Abadia also was indicted in Colorado in November 1994 and in the Eastern District of New York in 1994 and 1996.

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