Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia general sentenced in US for paramilitary links

Gen Mauricio Santoyo in a November 2007 file photo
Gen Santoyo was former President Alvaro Uribe's head of security

A federal court in the United States has sentenced Gen Mauricio Santoyo, who was President Alvaro Uribe's security chief, to 13 years in jail for links with paramilitaries.

The retired police general pleaded guilty to links with the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC).

The group is accused of mass killings in Colombia and is on the US list of terrorist organisations.

Gen Santoyo was also fined $125,000 (£74,400).

Drug smuggling

From 2002 to 2005, Gen Santoyo served as security chief for then-President Uribe.

Another close aide of the former president, Mario Uribe, was found guilty last year of having links with the AUC.

But Alvaro Uribe denies any link with the organisation, which led a campaign against left-wing rebels and people suspected of collaborating with them.

Gen Santoyo handed himself to the US authorities in July.

In his plea agreement, he said he took bribes from the AUC from 2001 to 2008 in exchange for tipping them off ahead of police operations against them.

Some of the operations also involved US drug enforcement agents.

Gen Santoyo initially rejected the charges of conspiring to smuggle drugs into the US, but eventually pleaded guilty.

The Eastern District Court of Virginia, in Alexandria, ruled that he must pay $125,000 for the drug smuggling charges.

As part of a 2003 peace deal brokered by Alvaro Uribe's government, most paramilitary leaders surrendered and demobilised tens of thousands of their men in exchange for reduced jail terms and protection from extradition.

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