Dairo Antonio Usuga David, popularly known as ‘Otoniel,’ the leader of a prominent Colombian criminal group, has been sentenced to 45 years for trafficking charges.
The verdict comes after Otoniel pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in the United States, marking a turning point in his criminal journey.
US District Judge Dora Irizarry, presiding over the case, delivered the landmark sentence in a federal court session held in Brooklyn. Otoniel, who headed the Clan del Golfo cartel, garnered notoriety for his involvement in the drug trade, and prosecutors likened his impact to that of infamous Colombian figure Pablo Escobar.
Prosecutors pressed for a 45-year prison term, underscoring Otoniel’s leadership of a “terrorist and paramilitary organisation” over nearly two decades. They pointed out his refusal to engage with a Colombian government-led peace process that offered a chance for demobilisation, indicating his unwavering commitment to violence.
The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn emphasised in court documents that Otoniel had ordered killings, kidnappings, and torture of rivals and perceived law enforcement collaborators. His quest for control and vengeance was described as unparalleled.
Otoniel’s defence lawyers acknowledged his challenging upbringing and coerced involvement as a child soldier in Colombia’s protracted conflict involving leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitary groups, criminal organisations, and government forces. While requesting a prison term of up to 25 years, they also acknowledged Otoniel’s admission of guilt.
Gulf Clan, known formally as Clan del Golfo, boasts a membership of over 1,000 armed individuals, largely consisting of former members of right-wing paramilitary factions. Otoniel’s journey to leadership saw him transition from left-wing guerrilla activities to a role in paramilitary circles.
Arrested near the Panama border in October 2021 by Colombian armed forces, Otoniel was subsequently extradited to the United States in May of the following year. The extradition came with the understanding that he would not face a life sentence. In January, Otoniel pled guilty to the charges brought against him, culminating in his recent sentencing.