Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Suriname/US: Son of Surinamese President Pleads Guilty to Providing Material Support to Hezbollah

According to The Latin American TribuneDino Bouterse, the son of the President of Suriname and previously head of Suriname’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, pled guilty Friday (August 29) in Manhattan federal court in connection with his attempt to provide material support and resources to Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization, along with narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. Bouterse, who was arrested in Panamá on August 29, 2013, and arrived in the United States on August 30, 2013, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.

“Today, a supporter of terrorism, who was in a position of national power in Suriname and presented himself as an opponent of terrorism, has pled guilty. In addition to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, Dino Bouterse has acknowledged that he attempted to provide material support to Hezbollah. Now he faces, at a minimum, 15 years in prison,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. 

Bouterse's father, Dési Bouterse, is a former army officer and military dictator who was elected to office in 2010. After a 1980 coup, Lt. Colonel Bouterse had ruled Suriname behind a series of puppet Presidents until a new constitution was passed and democracy restored in 1990.

According to the Indictment and other documents, in 2013, Bouterse used his position to assist individuals he believed were members of Hezbollah who intended to conduct terrorist attacks against US interests. 

In exchange for a multimillion-dollar pay-off, Bouterse agreed to allow large numbers of purported Hezbollah operatives to use Suriname as a permanent base for, among other things, attacks on American targets. In furtherance of his efforts to assist Hezbollah, Bouterse supplied a false Surinamese passport to a purported Hezbollah operative, who in actuality was an undercover law enforcement officer, for the purpose of clandestine travel, including travel to the United States, began determining which heavy weapons he could provide to Hezbollah, and indicated how Hezbollah operatives, supplied with a Surinamese cover story, could enter the United States.

In June 2013, Bouterse and his co-defendant, Edmund Quincy Muntslag, met in Suriname with DEA confidential sources (the “CSs”), in a local government office, to discuss importing cocaine into the United States using commercial airline flights. During the meeting, Bouterse showed the CSs a rocket launcher and a kilogram of cocaine.

Approximately one month later, Bouterse and Muntslag worked to provide transportation and security for cocaine being sent through Suriname to the United States. As a test run, Bouterse and Muntslag sent 10 kilograms of cocaine on a commercial flight departing from Suriname. Bouterse personally verified the arrangements for the 10-kilogram cocaine shipment in a text message. The cocaine was intercepted by law enforcement officials after it departed Suriname.

In July 2013, Bouterse met with one of the CSs to discuss opening Suriname to the CSs’ purported Hezbollah associates.Later that month, Bouterse met in Europe with one of the CSs and with two other men who purported to be associated with Hezbollah. During this meeting, Bouterse discussed initially hosting 30 to 60 Hezbollah members in Suriname for training and operations. He also indicated that he wanted a Hezbollah cell in Suriname, in part, to act as a personal armed force. 

Bouterse confirmed his understanding that the purported Hezbollah operatives would operate in South America against American targets, and he agreed to supply Surinamese passports to the operatives — and to assist with their applications for visas to travel from South America into the United States. In addition, in response to a request for surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, Bouterse stated that he would need “two months” and that he would provide a list of what he could supply.

Finally, at the July 2013 meeting in Europe, Bouterse agreed to create a false Surinamese passport for one of the purported Hezbollah operatives, so that Bouterse and the Hezbollah operative could travel to Suriname to inspect the facilities that Bouterse had agreed to prepare for the Hezbollah contingent.At a subsequent meeting in August 2013, Bouterse delivered a Surinamese passport with false identifying information to a purported Hezbollah operative. As had been discussed at the July 2013 meeting in Europe, the purported Hezbollah operative was to use the fraudulent passport to travel to Suriname. Bouterse indicated that everything was ready in Suriname for the arrival of the purported Hezbollah members, and that some “toys,” or weapons, would be available for inspection.

Muntslag was arrested on August 29, 2013, in Trinidad and Tobago, and is pending extradition to the United States to face a narcotics importation charge in the indictment.

Bouterse, 41, pled guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization, one count of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, and one count of carrying a firearm in connection with the conspiracy to import cocaine. 

Those charges carry a maximum term in prison of life, and a mandatory minimum term in prison of 15 years.

The charge against the remaining defendant, Edmund Quincy Muntslag, is merely an allegation, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

In 2000, Dino Bouterse's father, President Desi Bouterse, was himself convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a court in the Netherlands. He has always denied the charges. 

Wikileaks cables released in 2011 reveal that the elder Bouterse was involved in drug-trafficking until at least 2006. The cables report the connection between Bouterse and top Guyanese criminals Roger Khan and Eduardo Beltran. Khan was believed to help Bouterse's financial situation by giving him the means to supplement his income through narcotics trafficking. According to the cables Bouterse met Roger Khan several times in Nickerie at the house of MP Rashied Doekhi, who is a prominent member of Bouterse's political party. The cables also report that Bouterse and Khan were plotting to assassinate then minister of Justice Chan Santokhi and attorney general Subhaas Punwasi.Khan who is known as the Guyanese Pablo Escobar and is believed responsible for almost 200 murders in Guyana was arrested in Paramaribo in June 2006 in a sting operation by the Surinamese police. 

By order of then Minister of Justice Chan Santokhi, Khan was deported to the United States of America where he was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment on charges of smuggling large amounts of cocaine into the United States of America, witness tampering and illegal possession of firearms. 

STATEMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SURINAME ON THE CASE USA v. DINO BOUTERSE 

The Government of the Republic of Suriname wishes not to react to the recent developments in the court case of the United States of America against Dino Bouterse.

The Government, however, wishes to emphasize the following:
  1. At no point in time and in no manner whatsoever have terrorist organizations been active within the territory of the Republic of Suriname. Court documents reflect that this was an undercover operation in which only US agents and informants were involved, neither of whom were terrorists or drug cartel members;
  2. Dino Bouterse has never held the position of Head of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU). During the start up phase of this unit, Bouterse was merely appointed as trainer and instructor. To date, the only, and first, person to hold the position of Head of the CTU is Captain Giovanni Nijbroek. Hence, Dino Bouterse lacked at all times the authority and capability to lend support to setting up terrorist bases and camps in Suriname.
  3. Suriname and the United States of America, together with international organizations, have consistently been working closely in the area of counter terrorism and intelligence sharing. Suriname unequivocally continues this cooperation in the future.

August 13, 2014 US Indicts Son of Suriname's President for Drug Trafficking

Click here to read the Wikileaks Cables Linking Father President Desi Bouterse to Drug Trafficking