Bogota, Colombia Colombia's Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a U.S. request to extradite Fabio Ochoa, one of the highest-ranking former members of the violent Medellin cocaine cartel.
The decision, pending its expected approval by President Andres Pastrana, paves the way for the most prominent extradition of a Colombian drug suspect since the 1980s.
Ochoa, once a close associate of the late Medellin cocaine boss Pablo Escobar, was one of 31 people arrested in an October 1999 crackdown on alleged members of a major new cocaine smuggling operation.
Should Pastrana sign the extradition papers, Ochoa would be flown to the United States, where he faces a Florida indictment for his alleged role in an international syndicate said to have been shipping 30 tons of cocaine a month to the United States via Mexico.
According to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration document, Ochoa and fellow Colombian Alejandro Bernal Madrigal were cartel associates in the 1980s and, at the time of their 1999 arrests, were "two of the most powerful international traffickers of cocaine in the world."