Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia extradites Venezuela 'drug lord' Walid Makled

Walid Makled presented to the media after his arrest in August 2010
Image caption Walid Makled was arrested in Colombia last August

Colombia has sent an alleged Venezuelan drugs kingpin back to his home country, in a further sign of improved ties between the two nations.

Walid Makled, arrested last year, was also wanted by Washington to face cocaine smuggling charges.

Mr Makled alleged that Venezuelan officials helped his trafficking operations, charges they denied.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos had promised Venezuela that Mr Makled would be returned.

Mr Santos said the Venezuelan extradition request had arrived before the one from the US authorities.

Wanted for murder

Mr Makled, wearing a dark suit and in handcuffs, was handed over to Venezuelan officials at Bogota airport on Monday morning local time and flown back to Venezuela.

Mr Makled, known as The Turk, was a successful businessman in Venezuela whose family owned an airline, a transport company and several warehouses.

He went into hiding in 2008 when his brothers were arrested after large quantities of cocaine were found at a family ranch. He was arrested in Colombia last August.

The US authorities say he was one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world.

In Venezuela, he is also wanted for the murder of a journalist and a Colombian drug lord.

He has denied the charges, saying the authorities framed him in order to seize his businesses.

Mr Makled's case became a political issue in Venezuela when he alleged in interviews from prison that he paid millions of dollars to senior figures in the government.

Officials dismissed his claims as an attempt to avoid prosecution.

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