Dino Bouterse, son of Suriname president, charged with trying to help Hezbollah
By Dialogo December 11, 2013
United States authorities have charged Dino Bouterse, the son of Suriname President Desi Bouterse with conspiring to set up a Hezbollah terrorist camp in the South American Country.
Authorities in the U.S. announced terrorism charges against Bouterse, 41, on Nov. 8, 2013 in New York City. Bouterse has previously been convicted of trafficking drugs and weapons.
U.S. officials allege that Bouterse conspired with people he thought were Hezbollah operatives to bring dozens of the terrorist group’s operatives into Suriname for the purpose of staging attacks against the U.S.
Bouterse planned to equip the purported group of Shia Islamic militants with heavy weapons, such as land mines and rocket launchers, which he referred to as “toys,” according to U.S. federal court documents. But the people Bouterse was allegedly was conspiring with were undercover law enforcement agents.
Cocaine trafficking charges
Bouterse was already facing charges that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. when authorities filed charges of conspiring to provide material aid to a terrorist group.
Panamanian security forces arrested Bouterse on drug trafficking charges in that country on Aug. 29, 2013. Through cooperation between the Panamanian and U.S. governments, authorities sent Bouterse to the United States the day after his arrest.
Bouterse has been in U.S. custody since then. He has pleaded not guilty in U.S. federal court to the terrorism and drug trafficking charges.Bouterse faces a possible sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of the charges.
The president’s son
Boutourse’s father, Desi Bouterse, 68, is a former military ruler of Suriname. The parliament voted him in as president in 2010.
A court in The Netherlands convicted Desi Bouterse of cocaine traffiking in absentia in 1999. Bouterse has denied the charges.
Shortly after his inauguration Desi Bouterse appointed his son, Dino Bouterse, as head of the country’s “Counter-Terrorism Unit,” despite the fact that Dino Bouterse had earlier served three years in a Suriname prison after being convicted in 2005 for drug and weapons trafficking.
Following his son’s arrest in Panama, Desi Bouterse told reporters he was shocked by the charges, but added that his son is “a grown man” who “is responsible for his own actions.”
Surinamese officials said Dino Bouterse had stepped down as head of the country’s Counter-Terrorism Unit before his arrest. The resignation was never publicly announced, officials said.
The Republic of Suriname, situated on the northeast Atlantic coast, is a former Dutch colony with a population of 500,000. It is the smallest sovereign nation in South America.
Conspiracy allegedly began in February 2013
Dino Bouterse’s alleged involvement in the terrorism and drug trafficking conspiracies began in February, 2013, according to court papers filed by U.S. federal prosecutors. That month, he met in Suriname with two men he believed were operatives of a Mexican drug cartel, according to the court papers.
But the men in fact were U.S. undercover agents. In subsequent meetings, Bouterse agreed to help the men ship hundreds of pounds of cocaine from Suriname to the U.S. via Trinidad and Tobago. He also agreed to supply them with heavy weapons, including land mines, according to court documents. During one meeting Bouterse allegedly brandished a rocket launcher identified as a LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) as an example of the kind of weapons to which he had access.
Later, Bouterse and his co-defendant in the case, Edmund Quincy Muntslag, also known as “Blue,” arranged for a “test shipment” of 10 kilograms of cocaine to be flown out of Suriname on a commercial flight to Trinidad and Tobago, according to court documents. The cocaine was to be delivered to the U.S. That cocaine shipment was intercepted by law enforcement authorities in Trinidad and Tobago.
During the planning for the drug shipments, the U.S. undercover agents who were posing as Mexican drug cartel operatives Bouterse they had associates in Hezbollah, the Middle Eastern terrorist organization, according to court documents. Bouterse allegedly agreed to help bring members of the terrorist group from Lebanon into Suriname and supply them with weapons.
A meeting in Greece
In July 2013 Bouterse traveled to Greece to meet with a man he thought was a Hezbollah commander. In fact, the man was another U.S. undercover agent. The purported Hezbollah operative offered Bouterse $2 million to provide passports, weapons and a secure permanent base in Suriname for up to 60 Hezbollah members, according to court documents. While some of the Hezbollah operatives would stage attacks on the U.S., Bouterse wanted a core group to remain in Suriname for use domestically, court documents state.
“We’re going to need maybe ten people who will stay permanently in Suriname,” Bouterse told the purported Hezbollah operative, according to transcripts of the secretly-taped meeting. “People that we can depend on and call up …. We need tough guys.”
Following the meeting, Bouterse sent a text to his Surinamese alleged co-conspirator, Blue, to tell him about the apparent multi-million dollar deal with Hezbollah.
“We hit the jackpot,” the text said, according to court documents.
On the same day that Bouterse was arrested in Panama, agents with Trinidad and Tobago’s Organized Crime, Narcotics, and Firearms Interdiction Bureau (OCNFB) arrested Blue.
International cooperation between the security forces of Latin American countries and the U.S. is crucial in the battle against terrorism and drug trafficking, said Luis Gomez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“The capture and transfer or Dino Bouterse (to the U.S.) is the result of cooperation and the exchange of information at an international level,” Gomez said. Such cooperation between countries such as Suriname, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. “is important in the fight against not just drug trafficking, but in the battle against the actions of international terrorists,” Gomez explained.
“The United States is responsible for proving the criminal charges against Dino Bouterse,” Gomez said. “What is apparent is he was using his country as a platform for trafficking in drugs. Countries in the Americas, Europe and throughout the wold should continue to cooperate against transnational threats of all kinds
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