US slaps sanctions on Colombian criminal group

Washington, Jan 30 (IANS) The Barack Obama administration Wednesday slapped sanctions on a Colombian criminal organisation and its key drug trafficker.

The Department of the Treasury targeted Los Rastrojos for its violent activities spanning Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, Xinhua reported.

Diego Perez Henao was blacklisted for alleged involvement in drug trafficking and other criminal activities for over 20 years.

The Treasury move bars American citizens from doing business with the group or the individual, and freezes all of their assets under US jurisdiction.

"By targeting this violent criminal organisation currently operating in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, we are taking steps to expose their activities and undermine their operations," Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, was quoted as saying.

The office "will use these sanctions against key leaders and facilitators of this criminal organisation so long as they continue their criminal behaviour", he said.

The US Treasury said Los Rastrojos, emerging from the now extinct Cali and North Valle drug cartels in Colombia, has become a network of armed drug trafficking groups involved in cocaine trafficking as well as extortion and debt collections.

Perez Henao, alias Diego Rastrojo, who operated Los Rastrojos throughout the North Valley region of Colombia and the Pacific coastal regions of western Colombia, was the main source of supply for cocaine smuggled into the United States, the department said.

The man was arrested in June 2012 in Venezuela and extradited to Colombia the following month, where he is facing numerous criminal charges.

The US has identified 97 drug kingpins worldwide since June 2000, while the Treasury itself has targeted more than 1,200 businesses and individuals.

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