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US Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart resigns amid sex scandal revelations

Following revelations of a sex scandal involving drug agents and cartel-hired prostitutes, DEA chief Michele Leonhart has announced that she will retire within weeks. Lawmakers said they had lost faith in Leonhart.

United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Michele Leonhart announced her retirement Tuesday, officials said, months after the emergence of a sex scandal involving DEA agents who allegedly partook in cartel-funded sex parties in Colombia.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Leonhart's retirement, hailing her achievements during her tenure as chief.

"As the first woman ever to reach the rank of special agent in charge, she was a trailblazer for equality and an inspiration for countless others," Holder wrote in a statement.

Leonhart will leave the DEA in mid-May.

DEA chief since 2007, Leonhart had been facing growing pressure to resign from members of Congress, who had questioned her judgment and competence in the wake of the scandal revelations.

Lost confidence

A group of lawmakers charged that Leonhart was "woefully unable to change" the culture at the DEA following a Justice Department report that found agents attended orgies in Colombia with prostitutes reportedly hired by a drug cartel.

The sex parties took place between 2001 and 2005, but officials said the DEA did not investigate the misconduct until years later.

A congressional hearing last week raised questions among lawmakers that DEA agents may have leaked sensitive information about their investigations as a result of taking part in the orgies.

"It is incredibly concerning that, according to the DEA itself, there is a clear possibility that information was compromised as a result of these sex parties," Democrat Elijah Cummings told news agency Reuters.

A congressional oversight committee said they had lost confidence in Leonhart and said that "she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their positions."

The report followed revelations of a similar scandal in the US Secret Service that saw agents hiring prostitutes in Cartegena, Colombia in advance of a presidential visit.

bw/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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