SPANISH police detain Ecstasy kingpin wanted in U.S.

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ An Israeli-born man described as a major international trafficker of the drug Ecstasy is in custody in Spain awaiting a decision on a U.S. extradition request, police said Tuesday.

Police and drug enforcement agents apprehended the man, identified as Oded Tuito, Friday at a hotel in Castelldefels, a Mediterranean resort south of Barcelona, said police spokesman Rafael Fuentes.

The suspect, who operated under several aliases, was traveling through Spain on a French passport and did not resist arrest, he said.

Tuito is wanted by justice authorities in New York and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime, Fuentes said.

He is accused of ``heading an organization dedicated to smuggling large quantities of Ecstasy _ hundreds of thousands of pills _ from countries in Northern Europe to the United States,'' Fuentes said.

Tuito is also sought by Israel, where a 16-year drug sentence is pending against him.

Fuentes said Tuito would remain in a Barcelona jail until the National Court in Madrid considered the extradition requests. No date has been released for a hearing.

Spanish newspapers quoted U.S. authorities as saying Tuito had been under investigation since 1998.

MDMA, the synthetic psychoactive drug more commonly known as Ecstasy, is taken in tablet or capsule form and has long been popular throughout Europe at late-night parties known as ``raves,'' nightclubs, and rock concerts.

It is produced by clandestine laboratories, mostly located in the Netherlands and Belgium. Israeli crime syndicates with links to Russian mobs are the primary source of Ecstasy smuggled into the United States, according to the DEA.