Six men alleged to be involved in the selling of ingredients for making narcotics were captured on Tuesday in a joint operation by Colombia’s Police and the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
In what was the culmination of a three year-long investigation, code-named Operation “Structural 007,” conducted in coordination by the two countries’ authorities, the men were apprehended simultaneously in Bogota, Armenia, and the Bello municipality of Antioquia.
The suspects are accused of organizing the shipment of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, ingredients in making methamphetamine (nicknamed crystal meth), to labs who manufacture the drug for transport to the United States. They allegedly disguised the parcels as shipments of vitamin E capsules or neck rest pillows in order to evade seizure during transportation through Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, on the way to distributors in Mexico.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are found in common over-the-counter medications for treating symptoms of the flu but their sale in the pure form is regulated by placing restrictions on pharmaceutical companies’ access to the chemicals.
The leader of the alleged criminal organization has been identified as Francisco Antonio Lugo. He is accused by the authorities of setting up two bogus pharmaceutical companies which were used as a front for importing the chemicals from China, India, Germany and Russia.
The criminal enterprise is said to have grown over time leading to the building of its own laboratory. The facility was located by the Narcotics Division in Ciudad Bolivar, a barrio south of Bogota, in June 2011.
“The importance of this operation is that it is the first one against a criminal network structure fully identified and individualized in our country, for the extraction on chemical processes of compounds,” said Police General Ricardo Alberto Restrepo, Director of Narcotics Operations.
The office of the National Police said that there is no set date for the men’s extradition to stand trial in the United States and that at the present time it is unknown how long the extradition process could take.
- Capturadas seis persones con fines de extradición hacia Estados Unidos (CM&)
- Capturadas seis personas con fines de extradición hacia Estados Unidos (Policia National De Colombia)