Ex-Colombian security chief surrenders to DEA

Story highlights

  • Mauricio Santoyo Velasco was indicted in Virginia on drug trafficking charges
  • Santoyo turned himself in to American officials in Colombia
  • He is on a plane headed to the U.S., police say
The man who served as chief of security for former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe boarded a U.S. plane bound for Virginia, where he faces drug trafficking charges, police said Tuesday.
Mauricio Santoyo Velasco voluntarily turned himself in to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Colombia's capital after a weekend of negotiations, Colombian police said.
According to a federal indictment unsealed last month, Santoyo is accused of working with paramilitary groups to smuggle cocaine into the United States from about 2002 to 2008.
Uribe was popular as president in part because of his tough stance against leftist rebels. But critics accused his administration of siding with paramilitary groups, which also deal in drugs, in its fight.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International had called for a complete cutoff of U.S. military aid to Colombia due to the armed forces' alleged ties to paramilitaries.
Specifically, Santoyo is accused of accepting bribes from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a now demobilized paramilitary umbrella organization, and the Oficina de Envigado, a criminal organization that was originally founded by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Santoyo would provide assistance to these groups, inform them of police investigations and wiretaps, as well as carrying out unauthorized wiretaps, the indictment charged.
He served as chief of security for Uribe from 2000 to 2006.
Santoyo is "voluntarily coming to the United States to face these charges," said his attorney, John Zwerling. "I think it speaks well."
His client has proclaimed that he is not guilty and is expected to make the same plea once he is before a U.S. judge, the lawyer said.
It's not known if prosecutors will ask that Santoyo to be detained pending a possible trial.
The former president distanced himself from Santoyo, a retired police general, via his Twitter account after the indictment became public.
Santoyo was assigned to him by defense and police officials, he said.
"I reject, with pain and indignation, any delinquent conduct, in which according to ongoing judicial proceedings, involve General Santoyo," Uribe's Twitter account said.