Colombian drug lord receives 45-year jail sentence in US

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

A US federal judge in Miami, Florida handed down a 45-year jail sentence to Diego Montoya, aged 48, two months after he pleaded guilty to murder, drug trafficking and racketeering charges. At the proceedings, Montoya apologised for his past actions, saying he hoped his sentence would bring a measure of relief to victims and their families.

"I am really repentant of my actions. I hope my sentence will bring some measure of peace to the victims and their families," he said.

Montoya had been charged with heading the Norte Valle cartel, which rose to become Colombia's most powerful cocaine cartel after the demise of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the mid-1990s.

It is not yet known where Montaya will serve his sentence. However, William Clay, Montaya's attorney, requested that the location be near Miami.

Federal officials said that the cartel supplied 60% of all Colombian cocaine transported to the US at its peak. Montoya, also known as Don Diego, was arrested in 2007 and extradited to the US last year. He was once on the FBI's top-ten most-wanted list, alongside al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Last April, a US district judge in Florida sentenced Montoya's younger brother, Eugenio, to thirty years in prison on charges including conspiracy to import cocaine and obstruction of justice. The US government said that the Norte Valle cartel used "violence and murder" to prevent people from passing information to law enforcement officials and to "instill fear."