Argentina detains Colombian drug kingpin Ignacio Álvarez Meyendorff

The narco chief had traveled from Bogotá to meet with his family in Buenos Aires, but instead spent Christmas at Ezeiza international airport due to a ban on re-entry

Ignacio Álvarez Meyendorff was extradited from Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires to the United States in 2011.
Ignacio Álvarez Meyendorff was extradited from Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires to the United States in 2011.EFE

Colombian drug trafficker Ignacio Álvarez Meyendorff spent Christmas at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires. Immigration officers detained him on Friday, December 23, after verifying that there is a “permanent ban on re-entry into Argentinean territory” against him since June 2021. Álvarez Meyendorff, 62, had traveled from Bogotá, Colombia, to reunite with his family.

In 2011, Argentina extradited Meyendorff to the United States, where he was tried on drug trafficking charges. He had been living as a millionaire in Buenos Aires since 2004, until he was caught trying to send 253 kilos of cocaine to Europe concealed inside period furniture. In 2013 the US courts sentenced him to seven years in prison, and he served his term. But Argentina no longer wants him in its territory.

Álvarez Meyendorff has several aliases: Mono, Nacho and Big Brother. He was one of the biggest drug lords to choose Argentina as a refuge, since the country is off the radar screens of major law enforcement agencies fighting international drug trafficking. In Buenos Aires, he lived with his family in Puerto Madero, an upscale neighborhood for Argentina’s nouveaux riche. Last Friday, he took an Avianca flight from Colombia to meet his wife and four children, but alarm bells went off as he landed at Ezeiza airport. Meyendorff has no pending cases in Argentina, but there is a ban on his entering the country, despite having his entire family in Buenos Aires.

His lawyers played the health card before the judge: they presented a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that their client’s diabetes required immediate hospitalization, but the doctors who examined him at Ezeiza found no major health issues. If everything follows its course, Meyendorff will be returned to Bogotá. Immigration officers had already put him on the return plane, but the legal move by his lawyers delayed the return operation.

Meyendorff took refuge in Argentina to protect his family, but he never gave up the business. His mother, his wife and two of his children were sentenced in Buenos Aires to terms of between five and seven years in prison for money laundering. According to investigators, the clan laundered up to $8 million from the Norte del Valle cartel. It was against this backdrop that the drug lord was extradited to the United States, where he was found guilty of “illicit association or criminal conspiracy to distribute” around 70 tons of cocaine in submarines from Colombia.

The organization had already been dealt a blow in Argentina in 2012, in an operation called Louis XV, in which more than 250 kilos of cocaine were seized en route to Europe and the United States. In 2011, the seizure of a sailboat that was found adrift due to technical problems on Río de la Plata was found to contain 444 kilos of drugs that also belonged to the clan.

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