Colombian “Clan Del Golfo” Kingpin to Serve Concurrent 45-Year Sentences

Published: 11 August 2023

Colombian drug mafiaDairo Antonio Úsuga David will serve two 45-year sentences for his role as the head of one of Colombia’s most dangerous cartels. (Photo: National Police of Colombia, Flickr, License)

By Henry Pope

A Colombian national was handed two 45-year sentences Tuesday for his crimes as the kingpin of the “Clan Del Golfo” (CGD) cartel, one of Colombia’s most dangerous organizations, which also operates as paramilitary group with the strength of 6,000 members.

Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. Otoniel, is set to serve two concurrent 45-year sentences in a U.S. prison for his role as the head of the CGD, a multibillion-dollar paramilitary and drug trafficking organization that is known as one of the most violent in the world. He pleaded guilty to all charges back in January 2023.

During his trial, Úsuga David was identified as a high-ranking member of the CDG since its inception more than 10 years ago. As its leader, he oversaw all drug-related and paramilitary activity carried out by the cartel.

With 6,000 loyal subjects under his command, Úsuga David wielded “military control over vast amounts of territory in the Urabá region of Antioquia, Colombia,” investigators said. They named the region as amongst the country’s most lucrative drug trafficking areas due to its proximity to the Colombia-Panama border and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

As one of Colombia’s most violent and powerful cartels, the CGD controls several cocaine routes that run through Mexico and into the United States. Federal prosecutors attached to the case described the cartel as one of the world’s largest cocaine distributors; drug shipments bound for the U.S. weighed in excess of several tons per load.

“Otoniel led one of the largest cocaine trafficking organizations in the world, where he directed the exportation of massive amounts of cocaine to the United States and ordered the ruthless execution of Colombian law enforcement, military officials, and civilians,” said Attorney General Garland.

Members of the CDG have been known to don Colombian military uniforms and wage assaults against rival drug trafficking organizations and law enforcement officers who threaten the cartel’s hegemony.

Military-grade weapons such as grenades, explosives, and assault rifles were all part of the cartel’s arsenal under Úsuga David’s control.

Criminal groups that are not targeted with violence are instead heavily taxed. Fees are dependent on the cocaine that is manufactured, stored, or transported through the CDG’s territory, down to the kilogram.

And whenever necessary, Úsuga David could always deploy his army of sicarios to murder, kidnap, or torture anyone who stood in his way, be they competitors, police and military personnel, witnesses, and even their family members, investigators said.

This included violence against civilians. In one such case in early 2012, he ordered a multi-day shutdown in towns and communities under the CDG’s control; those who did not close their businesses or remain at home were executed on his orders.

His reign of terror came to an end on Oct. 23, 2021, following his capture at the hands of a joint Colombian military and law enforcement operation. Though he served as the CDG’s kingpin since 2012, investigations into his career as a drug trafficker have spanned almost 20 years.

“The human misery caused by the defendant’s incredibly violent, vengeful, and bloody reign as leader of the Clan de Golfo drug trafficking organization may never be fully calculated due to its magnitude,” said U.S. Attorney General, Breon Peace.

In addition to his two 45-year sentences, the court also ordered Úsuga David to pay US$216 million in restitution for his crimes, as part of an agreement between the U.S. and Colombian governments.