Colombia extradites ex-FARC commander to U.S. on drugs charges

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A woman hangs a Colombian flag next to the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common (FARC) Political party flag at a reintegration camp in Pondores

NEW YORK – Colombia has extradited a former commander of the leftist FARC paramilitary group to the United States to face drug trafficking charges, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said on Friday.

Martin Perez led a FARC unit known as the 30th Front from 2011 to 2014, when the group shipped thousands of kilograms of cocaine to the United States and elsewhere, earning millions of dollars for the FARC’s efforts to overthrow Colombia’s government, prosecutors said.

Perez, also known as “Richard,” was arrested in Colombia in 2014, before the FARC demobilized under a historic peace deal in 2016. He is expected to be arraigned on Friday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon on six criminal counts including international cocaine distribution.

Perez’s U.S. defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The Department of Justice is committed to working with our international partners to dismantle destructive drug trafficking organizations, especially where their drug trafficking is used to finance violence and terrorism,” Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in a statement.

Colombian law enforcement has seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine produced at laboratories Perez controlled or found in vessels under his control, prosecutors said.

Perez’s extradition comes a month after Dairo Antonio Usuga – the accused leader of Colombia’s Clan del Golfo criminal group who Peace described as one of the most wanted kingpins in the world – was extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)