May 20, 2024

A major drug lord responsible for supplying cocaine to European gangs was arrested in Colombia in a joint operation with Spanish police, authorities in both countries said on Saturday.  Julio Andres Murillo Figueroa, 49, collaborated in the 80s and 90s with infamous Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, police said.

Figueroa, 49, was detained on March 1 in his luxury villa in the region of Antioquia. The fugitive — known as H-1 or El Zar (“The Tsar) — had an arrest warrant issued by Spain for aggravated drug trafficking and membership in a criminal organization.

The suspect is “presumed to be directly responsible for the operations of the (Medellin) cartel in Europe and the cartel’s contact with the ‘Ndrangheta and Mocro Maffia criminal organizations,” Spanish police said.

The ‘Ndrangheta is a Calabrian criminal group from southern Italy and the Mocro Maffia is a largely Moroccan gang.

Together, they control much of the cocaine trade through the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam in Belgium and the Netherlands respectively. Just days ago, the leader of the Mocro Maffia was sentenced to life in prison over a series of murders committed by his gang in the Netherlands.

Colombian police said Figueroa was considered the main supplier to Jonas Sture Falk, known as the “Swedish Pablo Escobar,” and had direct links to the Gulf Clan, Colombia’s largest drug cartel.

Spain is one of the key entry points for cocaine to Europe given its close ties with South America, where the drug is produced.

Spanish authorities seized eight tons of the white powder arriving from Suriname in February and 9.5 tons in a container from Ecuador in August 2023.

Colombia produces about 60% of the cocaine found in the world. A United Nations report released in September found that potential coca production in the country had risen by 24% since 2021.

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