Colombia Extradition
Fernando Vergara  /  AP
Colombian police officers escort Diego Montoya, known as "Don Diego," at a military airport in Bogota on Friday.
updated 12/12/2008 4:40:48 PM ET 2008-12-12T21:40:48

Colombia extradited one of its most notorious reputed drug kingpins to the United States on Friday, sending Diego Montoya to face trial on drug trafficking, money laundering and murder charges.

When elite commandos captured him in September 2007 at a remote farmhouse, the man known as "Don Diego" was on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives, the last at-large "capo" of a major Colombian cartel.

Montoya's departure for Miami in a DEA plane "closes the chapter of the government's offensive to dismantle the Norte del Valle cartel," national police chief Gen. Oscar Naranjo said of the successor to the Medellin and Cali cartels.

It's the end of "a tragic story, a story involving the lives of many Colombians murdered by this cartel," he added.

Colombia's cocaine trade is now splintered among far smaller groups and much of the profits — and competition-related violence — have shifted to Mexican cartels.

At the time of his capture. Montoya headed a private army of several hundred gunmen. He had remained a fugitive for years by paying off military and police officials.

Montoya, 47, was indicted in two U.S. courts — southern Florida and District of Columbia. He sent tons of cocaine to the United States and is responsible for at least 1,500 killing in a two-decade career, Colombian officials say.

The reputed drug lord, who boarded the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Super King turboprop plane wearing jeans, sneakers and a dark jacket under a bulletproof vest, began his criminal career as a cocaine lab "chef," working his way up through transport, export and money-laundering, authorities say.

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