Good afternoon; thank you all for coming.
This morning, Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela– brothers who ran the infamous Cali drug cartel in Colombia for more than 20 years – pleaded guilty in a federal court in Miami to a charge of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. They each were immediately sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The brothers also agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering by hiding the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.
These two men were responsible for importing more than 200 tons of cocaine into this country over the course of many years. While at the height of their power, the intimidation and violence of their cartel held the people of the Colombian countryside hostage to fear.
Thanks to truly historic, cooperative efforts by U.S. law enforcement agencies and the Colombian government, these men today faced U.S. Justice. In court this morning, the two brothers agreed to a $2.1 billion forfeiture.
In addition, in a separate agreement, 28 of the Rodriguez-Orejuela family members agreed to forfeit all their assets, anywhere in the world, that were obtained directly or indirectly with narcotics proceeds. We anticipate that these assets will be found to be in the form of everything from bank and investment accounts to businesses, luxury residences and more.
The brothers’ guilty pleas effectively signals the final, fatal blow to the powerful Cali Cartel. There are always other traffickers and thus continuing challenges for law enforcement, but this is a day of pride for the people of Colombia and for international law enforcement.
The arrest, extradition to the United States, and now the convictions of these criminals, were all made possible by extraordinary cooperation between the United States and Colombia – our valued partner in the war to eradicate narcotics trafficking and the violence and corruption that accompanies it.
I am pleased to be joined at the podium by Ambassador Carolina Barco and wish to extend my deepest thanks, on behalf of our country, for the partnership and the bravery of President Uribe and the Colombian government.
Together, we have proven that the proud country of Colombia will not be held hostage by drug lords… and that those who seek to flood the neighborhoods of the United States with the poison of illegal drugs cannot get away with their crimes forever. They will be discovered, and they will be brought to justice.
I want to add that I believe our fight against illegal drugs has benefited from some of the reforms to our government that came after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
During that time, law enforcement agencies took important steps to ensure information-sharing and efficient use of resources. One of the tools developed was a unified, national law-enforcement list of the most significant drug and money laundering targets.
The Cali Cartel was on that list – the Consolidated Priority Organization Target, or CPOT list. CPOT has enabled drug enforcement officers at all levels, to assemble the resources necessary to zero in on the worst of the drug trafficking organizations… like the Cali Cartel. Of the 46 current CPOTs, 37 are under indictment in the U.S. In the last three years, law enforcement has completely dismantled 24 CPOT organizations and significantly disrupted one additional CPOT organization.
As with all matters of law enforcement, organization, cooperation and partnerships are what counted most in this case. In that spirit, I want to thank and congratulate the investigators and prosecutors who were involved, including:
I would also like to acknowledge the terrific partnership of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy represented here by Director John Walters.
Now, some of the stage participants will be making a statement, beginning with Assistant Secretary Julie Myers and afterwards we’ll take any questions.