Officials in the US, Europe and Latin America are trying to assess the significance of the arrest of one of the world's most wanted drug smugglers.

Colombian-born Pablo Rayo Montano was captured in Brazil last week, after being on the run for 10 years.

More than 30 other people were also arrested and assets worth millions of dollars were seized.

The success of this operation will be a huge boost to the international fight against the illegal drugs trade.

But the profits are so enormous and the levels of corruption across Latin America so deep, that aspiring young traffickers will already be filling the void left by another fallen drugs dealer.

Low profile

Officials working in several countries, including the US, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Mexico and Brazil, tracked Mr Rayo Montano down in Sao Paulo, where he had lived for the past three years.

Police said he had set up a number of companies, including an art gallery, to launder the proceeds from an estimated sale of 22 tons of cocaine a month to the US and Europe.

His wife and at least 30 others were also arrested across the US and Latin America.

Among the assets seized in an operation called Twin Oceans were three islands off the coast of Panama, several yachts, art work, and large sums of cash.

Mr Rayo Montano began trafficking drugs in the early 1990s from Colombian ports, according to Colombian police.

Police said that by using "a small navy" he built his business up to eventually supply an estimated 37 million consumers.

Despite his huge influence, Mr Rayo Montano had a much lower profile in Colombia than previous well-known drugs traffickers, such as Pablo Escobar.

BBC News