Top Colombian drug boss found dead in Venezuela

Other News Materials 1 February 2008 23:31 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Colombian drug boss Wilber Varela, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world, was found dead in the western Venezuelan city of Merida , Venezuelan authorities confirmed Friday.

Nestor Reverol , head of Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office (ONA), said comparative studies of the finger prints of one of two dead bodies found in Merida confirmed that one which had originally been identified as Jose Antonio Perez Chacon was in fact Varela.

Reverol said that Venezuelan authorities are proceeding to hand the body over to Colombian authorities.

The United States had offered a reward of up to 5 million dollars for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Varela, also known with the alias " Jabon " (Soap).

Colombian media have called Jabon the last great boss of the notorious North Valley Cartel.

The US State Department said on its website that Varela played "a pivotal role in the violence and brutality that is associated with the North Valley Cartel to protect their power, territory, and property from rival Colombian drug trafficking organizations."

Varela, 50, was found dead - with seven gunshot wounds - alongside an as yet unidentified body in a tourist cabin in Merida .

Varela is thought to have got involved in illegal activities in the 1980s as a member of a gang of hired killers and a partner of Cali Cartel bosses Gilberto and Miguel, who have been extradited to the United States.

He later joined the North Valley Cartel, through whose ranks he rose to become a top boss alongside Juan Carlos Abadia and Diego Montoya. Abadia and Montoya were arrested last year in Brazil and Colombia, respectively.

In recent years, hit men loyal to Varela and Montoya have bitterly fought each other's sides.

Colombian authorities believe Jabon had been in Venezuela for several months, to coordinate the shipment of drugs to the United States and Europe.