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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Spain says arrests Colombian drug lord Vargas

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police have arrested one of Colombia's most famous drug lords and could offer him up to other countries who want to extradite the former ally of dead drugs boss Pablo Escobar, police said on Monday.

Police caught Leonidas Vargas as he emerged from a Madrid hotel and arrested him for carrying a fake Venezuelan passport.

Vargas once headed the Caqueta drug cartel in the southwest of Colombia. He was arrested and served time in jail from 1993.

He had worked for the late Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, one of Colombia's most feared drug traffickers, and then for Medellin cartel boss Escobar, who was killed by police in 1993.

After his arrest on Saturday, High Court Judge Fernando Andreu ordered Vargas be jailed while authorities examined whether he faced outstanding charges.

"He's in prison while we wait to see if the Colombian authorities (and other countries) tell us if they have some case here," a police spokesman said.

Colombian police said that, as yet, they had found no record of current investigations against Vargas, but he has been sought previously by several other countries, including the United States -- a strong critic of the sometimes-lavish conditions granted to Colombia's jailed drug barons.

In 1997, Vargas managed to record an album of Mexican-style "ranchera" music despite being locked away in a Bogota's maximum security Modelo prison.
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