Authorities have announced that Claudio Baez, an alleged cofounder of Colombia’s ‘Executive Board’ drug trafficking conglomerate, was captured Friday attempting to attend Colombia’s World Cup Qualifier in Barranquilla.
The arrest brought an end to an 18-month investigation on the part of an Interpol-DEA joint taskforce, and is the latest in a series of blows to the so-called Executive Board’s central organization, a network that included most of the major drug-trafficking rings in Colombia.
Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, called the “last drug kingpin” in Colombia following his arrest and extradition to the United States in 2010, was believed to be the group’s original leader. His successor, Daniel ‘El Loco’ Barrera, was extradited, as well, this past January. After Antonio Angulo Salazar, aka ‘El Pollo’, was assassinated last month, Baez was one of the last remaining figures at the top of the Executive Board hierarchy.
Authorities transferred Baez to Bogota Saturday, where he was believed to run the Executive Board’s money-laundering operation, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through a network of small businesses he owned throughout the city.
For years, Baez kept a low profile while handling the finances for Colombia’s largest umbrella drug network. But as the Executive Board’s bosses exited the picture due to criminal investigations and violence, Baez himself fell under the spotlight.
The United States is expected to ask for Baez’s extradition after playing a prominent role in his investigation and capture. With crowding and corruption in the Colombian prison system, extradition has become a regular feature in Colombia’s anti-narcotics policy, as a method of preventing high-level officers from running their illegal operations out of Colombian prisons.
If Baez is convicted and extradited, he will join two of his brothers and various other members of the Executive Board empire in United States federal prison.