WASHINGTON — The United States paid $10 million in each of the past three years to informants in an effort to capture major druglords, a senior government official told lawmakers Thursday.

The program, sponsored by the State Department, has paid out $71 million since it was launched in 1986, said Brooke Darby, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

"Over the past three years, our Narcotics Rewards payments have averaged approximately $10 million annually," Darby told the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

"Throughout the western hemisphere, and notably in Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, the Narcotics Rewards program has helped to bring important traffickers to justice," she said on Wednesday.

Among those snared were FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commanders in Colombia such as Guillermo Leon Saenz-Vargas, better known as Alfonso Cano, who was killed in a November raid.

Logistics chiefs for cocaine distribution networks in Colombia and Venezuela have also been brought to justice, according to Darby.

After publicizing rewards in December 2009 for members of the Arturo Beltran-Leyva drug trafficking organization, in Mexico, its leader Marcos Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed during an operation to capture him.

"This was a significant blow to the Beltran-Leyva organization, which had organized, managed and distributed multi-hundred kilogram shipments of narcotics to the United States and was recognized as a narcotics kingpin," said Darby.

"Outside of the western hemisphere, Yang Wan-Hsuan, a heroin distributor and exporter to the United States, was captured by Thai authorities in 2001 with information from a narcotics reward program lead."

One captured target, who was the subject of a publicized $5 million reward, told Drug Enforcement Administration agents that after he was targeted, he "could no longer trust anyone in his hierarchy," according to Darby.

"His ability to maintain control of his organization diminished. From that moment on he felt, for the first time, like a hunted man."

The hearing was called because a Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill to extend the rewards program to other criminal activity, including genocide and war crimes.