Mexico catches drug lord in tourist haunt

 Soldiers captured Wednesday one of Mexico`s most-wanted drug barons, Hector Beltran Leyva, in a restaurant in a colonial town popular with American tourists and retirees.

AFP| Updated: Oct 02, 2014, 11:01 AM IST

Mexico City: Soldiers captured Wednesday one of Mexico`s most-wanted drug barons, Hector Beltran Leyva, in a restaurant in a colonial town popular with American tourists and retirees.

The man known as "El H" was caught along with a suspected henchman in a seafood restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, a historic town in central Mexico, without a shot being fired, authorities said.

Tomas Zeron, director of investigations at the attorney general`s office, said Beltran Leyva was passing himself of as a "well-off businessman dedicated to real estate and art sales to justify his lifestyle."

Beltran Leyva, who was carrying a gun during his arrest, was detained after an 11-month investigation, Zeron said. Military intelligence work allowed authorities to find his home in the central state of Queretaro.

The arrest allows President Enrique Pena Nieto to cross off another big fish from Mexico`s most wanted list following the capture of Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in February and Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino last year. 

Beltran Leyva, 49, inherited the thrown of his family`s drug clan when his brother and "boss of bosses," Arturo, was killed by marines in 2009 in Cuernavaca, a popular weekend getaway for Mexico City residents.

Two other brothers, Alfredo and Carlos, are in jail.

Zeron called Beltran Leyva one of Mexico`s top drug traffickers, who specialized in moving cocaine from South America and Central America to lucrative US and European markets.

Mexico had offered a $2.2 million reward for information leading to his arrest, on top of a $5 million US bounty.

He faces charges in Washington and New York courts.

The Beltran Leyva clan was initially allied with Guzman`s Sinaloa crime syndicate, considered the biggest cartel in Mexico.

But the two cartels split after Alfredo Beltran Leyva was detained in 2008 following a betrayal by Guzman, officials have said.

More than 80,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006, much of the deaths due to turf wars between the country`s various cartels.

The Beltran Leyva cartel is believed to operate in a third of the country, mainly in the central and southern regions.

The gang has undergone internal power struggles and is known for its vast money laundering operations and ability to corrupt officials.