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Officer of Cali Cartel Surrenders, Will Inform U.S. about Operations

By Pierre Thomas and Thomas W. Lippman
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The man believed to be the Cali cocaine cartel's chief administrative officer has surrendered to U.S. law enforcement officials, and authorities say he has agreed to provide detailed information about the cartel's inner workings and alleged payoffs at the highest levels of the Colombian government.

After days of secret negotiations with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Guillermo Pallomari-Gonzalez recently flew commercially into an undisclosed U.S. airport, turned himself over to federal authorities and immediately was placed in protective custody. He had been indicted this summer along with a select group of American lawyers who have represented the cartel's financial interests in the United States and abroad.

"He may turn out to be the biggest witness of international drug trafficking that we've ever had," one senior administration official said. "He was the chief administrator, a man with knowledge of the routes, codes. He knows everything about the operation."

Pallomari-Gonzalez is expected by officials to offer detailed information about the cartel's cocaine trafficking and money-laundering operations in the U.S. and Mexico. He could provide details about Cali cartel security and communications, as well as bribes and payments to high-ranking Colombian officials, the source said. Further, U.S. authorities hope Pallomari-Gonzalez can help resolve allegations that Colombian President Ernesto Samper's 1994 election campaign received millions from the cartel.

There was little mystery about Pallomari-Gonzalez's motive for surrendering in the United States: With his cartel bosses already under arrest in Colombia, he faced imprisonment and would be "revolver bait" in a Colombian cell, a State Department official said. In this country, by fully cooperating with prosecutors, he possibly can negotiate a sentence of 10 years in prison, this official said.