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Colombian drug lord admits to trafficking tons of cocaine to the US

Drug lord admits in NY court to trafficking tons of cocaine to the US with help from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Andean nation’s largest rebel group

  • Colombian drug trafficker Román Narváez pleaded guilty Wednesday to trafficking five tons of cocaine to the United States
  • He ran his network out of the southwestern Colombia department of Cauca and set up laboratories in jungles
  • Cocaine was shipped to ports on Colombia’s Pacific coast with the help of paramilitary groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
  • Narváez could 20 years to life in prison and agreed to pay back $20 million

A Colombian drug kingpin is facing life in prison after he pleaded guilty to trafficking tons of cocaine to the United States with the support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest guerrilla group.

Román Narváez accepted his culpability during a hearing Wednesday at a federal court in Brooklyn, according to the United States District Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.

The 46-year-old, according to court documents, ran a drug trafficking organization based out of the southwestern Colombia department of Cauca and set up laboratories in the region’s jungles where workers produced multi-tons of cocaine.

Massive loads of cocaine were then transported to ports along Colombia’s Pacific coast and most of it was sent to the U.S. by sea. 

Román Narváez pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to overseeing a drug trafficking organization in Colombia that shipped at least five tons of cocaine to the United States

However, Narváez’s organization was required to pay taxes to the Revolutionary Armes Forces of Colombia and other paramilitary groups for the right to freely travel through roads that were under rebel groups’ control.

U.S. federal investigators say that between July 1, 2019 and April 13, 2013, Narváez conspired with other individuals to produce and distribute five tons of cocaine.

Narváez allegedly averaged profits of at least $10 million ‘during one or more twelve-month periods for the manufacture, importation and distribution of cocaine.’ 

His drug trafficking network at one point was the top exporter of cocaine to the United States.

Narváez was in possession of 28 bars of gold when he and five cartel associates were arrested in October 2016 as part of Operation Pacific Pearl II. 

Overall, authorities arrested 300 people, including Mexican and Ecuadoran nationals, who were employed as traffickers or operators of speed boats.

Narváez was extradited to the United States in October 2019. His sibling Uldarico Narváez, 41, was arrested in Colombia in September 2019 and turned over to the U.S. in October 2020. He is facing international cocaine trafficking charges. 

As part of his plea deal with the feds, Román Narváez will be required to turn over $20 million.

Still image from 2019 shows former senior commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Still image from 2019 shows former senior commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Supporters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia demonstrate in Bogota on April 9, 2018

Supporters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia demonstrate in Bogota on April 9, 2018

Cops confiscated 28 bars of gold when Román Narváez and five cartel associates were arrested in October 2016 in Colombia

Cops confiscated 28 bars of gold when Román Narváez and five cartel associates were arrested in October 2016 in Colombia

‘With today’s guilty plea, the defendant will face significant punishment for the incalculable harm caused by poisoning our country with huge quantities of cocaine produced by his drug trafficking organization, while amassing substantial illicit wealth for himself,’ Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko said. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment, 91 percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. and tested by the agency originates from Colombia.

The DEA report found that Colombian drug trafficking networks still ‘control the production and supply of cocaine, and rely on partnerships with Mexican (transnational criminal organizations) to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to U.S. markets.’ 

Meanwhile, Mexican transnational criminal organizations ‘dominate the wholesale distribution of Colombian cocaine into the United States.’

‘Principally, large-scale Colombian TCOs (transnational criminal organizations) work closely with Mexican and Central American TCOs to export multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia every year,’ the DEA said in its annual report. 

‘Largescale Colombian TCOs sell multi-ton quantities of cocaine and smaller quantities of heroin to Mexican TCOs, who smuggle those drugs through the Central American corridor and Mexico for eventual smuggling into the United States. Colombian TCOs also route cocaine and heroin shipments through the Caribbean Corridor where local TCOs receive and transport them into the United States.’

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