WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department lifted economic sanctions on Thursday against 308 people and entities with suspected links to a now-defunct Colombian drug cartel.
Thursday's action is the largest single delisting in the history of the Treasury's sanctions program.
Economic sanctions had been levied against the 78 individuals and 230 entities, primarily located in Colombia, under an executive order, which targets narcotics traffickers based in the county. All had alleged ties to the network led by Cali cartel leaders Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela. Sanctions still have not been lifted against the two, who are serving 30-year prison sentences in the United States.
"The sustained economic pressure on the Cali cartel, at its height the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world, stemmed from close coordination between multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies and our Colombian counterparts," said Adam Szubin, director of the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
He said lifting the sanctions demonstrates the successful use of targeted sanctions, which destroyed the brothers' business empire. The U.S. continues to support Colombian authorities as they prepare to finalize the forfeiture of the brothers' assets, including the drugstore chain Drogas La Rebaja.
Treasury says it has determined that those delisted have shown that they no longer are engaged in activities that triggered the sanctions. Including Thursday's action, Treasury has delisted more than 800 people since 2012 and more than 1,300 in the past seven years.
The brothers were named as specially designated narcotics traffickers by President Bill Clinton in 1995. Colombian authorities later seized their assets, primarily those under the drugstore chain in Colombia.
In 2006, after they were captured and extradited from Colombia, they pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in federal courts in Florida and New York. In addition to their prison sentences, they agreed to a $2.1 billion forfeiture judgment to be levied against their narcotics-related assets worldwide.
In connection with the brothers' guilty pleas, 28 of their relatives who were previously designated as narcotics traffickers entered into an agreement with U.S. justice and treasury officials in September 2006. As part of this agreement, the family members were required to sever ties to narcotics trafficking, identify property financed by drug proceeds and hand those assets over to the Colombian government. Those who concealed assets were prosecuted in Colombia.