Venezuela nabs Colombian cartel leader Maximiliano Bonilla, a.k.a. 'Valenciano'
On the eve of a meeting of the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents, police seized Maximiliano Bonilla and plan to extradite him to the US, where there is a $5 million reward for his capture.
Venezuela has captured one of Colombia's top drug traffickers, just as President Juan Manuel Santos visited his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas, an arrest that may have profound implications for the Colombian underworld.Skip to next paragraph
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Maximiliano Bonilla, alias 'Valenciano,' was one of Colombia's most powerful and prolific drug traffickers, running a criminal empire in the city of Medellin and along the Caribbean Coast. He headed a series of criminal organizations, including factions of the 'Oficina de Envigado' in Medellin and the 'Paisas' along the coast, from their operating base in the city of Barranquilla.
It was not a coincidence that he was arrested on the eve of the meeting in Venezuela between Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chavez. An intelligence source told InSight Crime that the Colombian police intelligence, DIPOL, had been following members of Mr. Bonilla's family for two years, and had pinpointed his movements, feeding the information to the Venezuelan authorities to secure the arrest on Sunday night to highlight the increasing cooperation between the two nations. Despite having a security detail of 15 triggermen, all with Venezuelan IDs like himself, Bonilla came without a fight in the Venezuelan city of Maracay in Aragua state on the Caribbean Coast.
The Venezuelan Interior Minister, Tarek El Aissami, said that Bonilla, aged 39, would be sent to the US, where there is a five-million dollar reward for him, as well as an extradition warrant on drug trafficking charges. "This is one of the most important captures we have made in recent years in Venezuela," stated Mr. El Aissami.
Bonilla had tried to change his appearance from the heavyset, clean shaven look on his wanted poster, to a mustached, bespectacled and slighter version, thanks to a gastric bypass. He has also been constantly on the move, not just in Venezuela and Colombia, but passing through Panama and perhaps other Central American nations.
Bonilla's criminal career began in Medellin, and it is here that his arrest is likely to have the greatest effect. Underworld legend has it that Bonilla's father was killed when he was 13 years old and he was 'adopted' by Diego Murillo, alias 'Don Berna,' the successor of Pablo Escobar in Medellin. Bonilla became a favorite of Murillo's and one of his most trusted assassins, consummating his first kill when he was just 15 and by 16 was running his own group of hit men.