Colombian kingpin "Mi Sangre" has been extradited from Argentina to the United States, closing a chapter in one of the most pivotal and turbulent periods in Colombia's organized crime history.
In a secret operation in the early hours of November 17, Colombian drug trafficker Henry Jesús López Londoño, alias "Mi Sangre," was extradited to the United States after four years in an Argentine jail, AFP reported.
A US federal court in South Florida requested his extradition to face charges of cocaine trafficking to the United States (pdf), and the US Treasury department has accused the Colombian national of being a leading member of the Urabeños drug trafficking organization. (See the Treasury Department's graphic below)
Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designations from the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control
López was arrested in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires in October 2012, and has since been held in the maximum security Ezeiza prison. The kingpin had long fought his extradition to the North American country, which was approved by Argentina's Supreme Court in September 2016.
InSight Crime Analysis
López was a crucial player in the early days of the Urabeños, an organization that emerged from the ashes of Colombia's notorious paramilitaries and is now the most powerful criminal group in the country.
The Colombian kick-started his criminal career in the powerful Medellín-based criminal organization Oficina de Envigado under the group's former leader Diego Fernando Murillo, alias "Don Berna." While he would later return to Medellín, López proceeded to join the paramilitary umbrella organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), eventually becoming one of the group's top drug traffickers.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extradition
Following the demobilization of the AUC in the mid-2000s, López and other top commanders continued to run their criminal operations. López found an ally in former paramilitary Daniel Rendón Herrera, alias "Don Mario," who needed money from the drug trade to support a rehashed group of former paramilitaries that would eventually become the Urabeños.
López joined Don Mario around 2008, and a few years later became key to the Urabeños' bloody expansion into Medellín -- still under the control of the Oficina de Envigado -- through his ties to Oficina boss Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias "Valenciano."
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mi Sangre
But Valenciano later fled to Venezuela, where he was arrested in 2011. This was a boon for López, who with the Urabeños took control of his former associate's valuable drug trafficking networks in Medellín and along the Caribbean coast. The following year, the Urabeños' main contenders for control of Colombia's underworld -- the Rastrojos -- swiftly collapsed as its leaders fell to authorities.
Yet as the Urabeños emerged as Colombia's new crime lords, López was reportedly told to take refuge in Argentina for his own protection. There are also indications that López -- like others after him -- was part of the Urabeños' expansion into this key drug transit country.
Given the fact that he has spent several years in a foreign prison, it is seems unlikely that López will be able to offer US investigators much information on current criminal activities in Colombia. However, his long history in the South American country's underworld could nonetheless shed light on older cases, like those involving the paramilitaries and their elite allies, and he may try to use this as a bargaining chip when dealing with US prosecutors.