An alleged Colombian drug kingpin wanted by the United States was arrested Tuesday in a luxury condominium on the outskirts of South America's largest city, authorities said.
Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, who faces three U.S. federal indictments on drug and racketeering charges, was taken into custody just after dawn, Brazilian federal police said in a statement.
The arrest of Ramirez Abadia came after a two-year investigation into Colombian drug traffickers who sent large quantities of cocaine to the United States and Europe, police said.
Ramirez Abadia is suspected of masterminding hundreds of killings of police and informants in Colombia and the United States, the police statement said.
Police were also trying to serve 16 other arrest warrants Tuesday and were searching 28 locations in six Brazilian states to dismantle what they described as a major drug trafficking and money laundering operation.
The gang under investigation allegedly brought profits to Brazil via Uruguay from Mexico and Spain, and the money was laundered through the purchase of hotels, mansions, industrial property and cars, the statement said.
Ramirez Abadia, 44, has been on a list of "specially designated narcotics traffickers" compiled by the U.S. Treasury Department since 2000. The department last year added Ramirez Abadia's mother and father to the list.
The listings by the Office of Foreign Assets Control freeze their U.S. assets and forbid commercial transactions with them by Americans or U.S. companies.
Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, last year called Ramirez Abadia "one of the most powerful and elusive drug traffickers in Colombia."
Ramirez Abadia founded a Colombian pharmaceutical distribution company, Disdrogas Ltda., when he was a fixture with the Cali drug cartel, U.S. officials said.
Colorado, New York charges
Ramirez Abadia faces federal indictments on drug trafficking charges in Colorado in 1994 and New York in 1995. He surrendered to a Colombian court in 1996 and was in prison until 2002.
U.S. officials have said Ramirez Abadia was closely allied with Colombia's North Valle drug operation.
In 2004, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicted the North Valle organization under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and named Ramirez Abadia as a North Valle leader.
Brazilian authorities did not immediately announce whether Ramirez Abadia would be sent to the United States to face charges or whether he would face charges in Brazil. Richard Mei, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, had no immediate comment.