- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mexican drug lord Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix, who oversaw the construction of sophisticated tunnels to smuggle drugs under the U.S.-Mexico border, was arrested yesterday by U.S. authorities while deep-sea fishing, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard apprehended the reputed drug boss aboard a boat known as the “Dock Holiday,” about 15 miles off the shore of La Paz, Mexico.

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said Javier Arellano-Felix, 37, was “one of the world’s major drug traffickers,” and faces life in prison and forfeitures of almost $300 million.

Arellano-Felix, wanted in the United States and Mexico for his role as a leader of a brutal international drug gang that included seven brothers and four sisters from the Arellano family, was indicted in 2003 on federal charges of racketeering, operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to import and distribute a controlled substance.

The State Department had offered a $5 million reward for the capture of him or his brother Eduardo.

Mr. McNulty said the Arellano-Felix organization negotiated directly with Colombian cocaine-trafficking organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the purchase of multiton shipments of cocaine, received those shipments by sea and air in Mexico, and then arranged for smuggling the cocaine into the United States.

He said the organization recruited, trained and armed groups of bodyguards and assassins responsible for protecting the leaders and to kill off rival drug traffickers, suspected informants and Mexican law-enforcement and military personnel, along with members of the news media. He said 20 killings are thought to have been carried out by the gang.

Michael Braun, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) assistant administrator for operations, said the Arellano-Felix organization dominated the Mexican drug trade for more than a decade and had “flooded our nation with literally tons and hundreds of tons of a variety of drugs: cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.”

“That dynasty, built on drugs and ruthless violence, began to topple in 2002 with the death of one of the Arellano-Felix brothers and the arrest of another, and was further weakened with the 2003 indictment of the major remaining organization leaders,” Mr. Braun said.

“Today, we’ve got this brutal organization in a chokehold, and we are not letting up,” he said.

DEA officials said agents became aware of the planned fishing trip on Monday and contacted the Coast Guard for help in the arrest.

Two others taken into custody on the boat were identified as Arturo Villareal-Heredia and Marco Fernandez, described as hired assassins and were charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and other related crimes.

Arellano-Felix was charged in Mexico in 1993 with conspiring to assassinate Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo. Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, along with six other persons, was assassinated on May 24, 1993, in the parking lot at Guadalajara International Airport. He was shot 14 times.

In January, federal agents located a 2,400-foot-long tunnel built by the Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix organization, filled with two tons of marijuana and connecting warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego.

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