Colombian Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño has denied in statements to Argentine authorities any drug-trafficking ties and said he had been living a "normal life" in a residential area outside Buenos Aires, where he was arrested this week.
"My son goes to school and they know me in the neighborhood. If I'd been hiding, I wouldn't have gone in person to reserve a table with a friend in his SUV. I wasn't with bodyguards and I don't go around in armored cars like they said," Lopez Londoño, alias "Mi sangre," told Noticias magazine Saturday through his attorney, Carlos Olita.
The suspect, who is being held at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza jail, was arrested Tuesday at a restaurant in Pilar, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Buenos Aires, in a operation that included the cooperation of the Colombian police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Lopez Londoño is wanted for extradition by the United States on drug-trafficking charges.
The suspect said he entered the country 10 months ago with a Venezuelan passport and was living with his wife and two children, one born in Argentina, in a house outside Buenos Aires. He added that he drove high-end vehicles and led a "normal life."
Lopez Londoño said he had changed his identity on his immigration documents "to protect myself from the persecution I was suffering in my country. I'm going to prove that in the case with my attorney."
"I'm a businessman. I buy and sell vehicles. I'm setting up a business to devote myself to real estate," he said through his attorney.
He said he only has one home in Argentina and that "it's not true I have six or eight properties."
Olita, for his part, told Efe that his client's wife and one of their children were granted refugee status in Argentina in 2008 but lost that benefit a year later after leaving the country to temporarily return to Colombia.
The 41-year-old Lopez Londoño is accused of being the top boss of Los Urabeños, a paramilitary organization with drug ties that is considered one of Colombia's most dangerous criminal groups.
His arrest in Argentina and the refugee status granted his family have sparked controversy about the level of controls in place to prevent the spread of drug trafficking in Argentina.
Lopez Londoño is suspected of having been a lieutenant of paramilitary chief Diego Murillo, better known as "Don Berna," who was extradited to the United States in 2008 along with other leaders of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, to face drug and money-laundering charges.
The AUC, which was founded to battle leftist rebels, deteriorated into a loose association of drug-dealing death squads led by men who amassed large fortunes. It ostensibly disbanded in 2006.
AUC fighters killed more than 250,000 people over the course of two decades, according to a U.S. State Department cable disseminated by WikiLeaks.
In his statement to a federal judge in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, Lopez Londoño said his arrest was politically motivated and that the charges against him were "invented" in the Andean country in collaboration with the United States. EFE