Nine suspected heroin traffickers who had links to Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel were arrested by police across Colombia, officials said.

The suspects smuggled drugs into the United States and Europe, drug enforcement chief Gen. Luis Alberto Perez said.

The arrests were made in the southwestern cities of Cali and Jamundi, the western cities of Armenia and Pereira, and Riohacha, the capital of the northern province of La Guajira.

"In this phase of the investigation, brothers Ricardo and Miguel Angel Calvache Pino, leaders of the organization, were captured, and Juan David Toro Serna, who is wanted for extradition by the (Federal) District Court of the Southern District of New York, for crimes related to drug trafficking," Perez said.

The investigation, which started in 2010, has led to the arrests of 37 people in several different countries.

Intelligence gathered during "Operation Republica 97" indicates that the gang smuggled 40 kilos of opiates monthly into other countries via contacts in Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Aruba, among other countries, officials said.

The drugs were smuggled into the United States and countries in Europe.

Investigators "estimate that this criminal organization of an international nature has been dismantled," Perez said.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.

The Sinaloa cartel is led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted man.

Guzman has been on the list of U.S. drug kingpins since June 1, 2001.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and has an extensive drug distribution network in the United States.

Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001, is considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Chapo Guzman tops the list of Mexico's 37 most-wanted criminals and is on the Forbes list of the world's richest people. EFE