Ex-Portsmouth & Southampton player sentenced to 11 years in prison for drug trafficking

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Ex-Portsmouth & Southampton player Jhon Viáfara sentenced to 11 years in prison for drug trafficking
Photo: Adam Davy/ EMPICS

Former Portsmouth and Southampton midfielder Jhon Viáfara has been slapped with an 11-year prison sentence for smuggling cocaine into the United States.

The ex-Colombian international was sent down for drug trafficking in a federal court in Texas on Wednesday.

Viáfara was arrested in Colombia and extradited in January 2020, and in November pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import five kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States.

Known as "Futbolista," "Goleador" and "Makelele," the 42-year-old was accused of being the kingpin in an operation which dispatched large cocaine shipments by aircraft or boat from Colombia to Mexico via Central America for subsequent distribution within the US.

Meanwhile, five others have been indicted in his case, one of whom also received 11 years in prison.

Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Ganjei of the Eastern District of Texas said in a statement:

The defendant in this case had it all, worldwide fame, wealth, and stature - despite all of this, he chose to use his talents to advance the evil of the drug trade.

Traffickers should take note, no matter who you are; no matter where in the world you live; the United States will prosecute you if you join in a conspiracy to send drugs to our country.

Viáfara began his football career in his native Colombia and played for Deportivo Pasto, América de Cali and Once Caldas prior to being signed by Portsmouth, who were then a Premier League side, in 2005.

After a brief loan spell with Real Sociedad, he moved to Southampton, where he made over 70 appearances between 2006 and 2008 before returning to his homeland.

Spells followed with six other other clubs in his home country before he retired in 2015.

Viáfara also made 34 appearances for his country and appeared for Colombia at both the 2014 and 2017 Copa América tournaments.

Colombia's booming cocaine trade has lured other former footballers from that country, such as Diego Osorio, who was sentenced in 2019 to five years of house arrest for distributing narcotics.

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