By Ivan Cairo
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Dino Bouterse (41), son of the president of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, has pleaded guilty in US federal court to charges of attempting to smuggle cocaine to the US and aiding Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organization, international media reports indicated.
“In 2013, I knowingly provided a false Surinamese passport to a person I believed to be associated with Hezbollah, an organization I knew to be designated a terrorist organization by the United States," Bouterse said at a hearing on Friday in New York, Reuters reported.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to import narcotics and carrying a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime. He is also accused of attempting to assist individuals he believed to be Hezbollah representatives to establish a base in Suriname to attack Americans. He negotiated a payment of initially US$2 million, court documents show.
Bouterse faces a sentence of between 15 years and life in prison
He was arrested a year ago in Panama and subsequently extradited to the United States on charges that he conspired to smuggle cocaine to the US. Edmund Muntslag, a co-defendant, was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago at the same time and he is currently fighting a court battle there to prevent his extradition to the US.
Instead of an anti-tank weapon named in the indictment, as part of a plea deal Bouterse admitted that he was brandishing a handgun when he showed who later turned out to be undercover agents a quantity of cocaine in his office in Paramaribo.
At the hearing in a Manhattan court, Bouterse was dressed in a blue prison garb, sometimes using a Dutch interpreter in his exchanges with Judge Shira Scheindlin. The judge warned that, if a terrorism enhancement applies to his case, his minimum sentence could double from 15 years to 30 years behind bars. Sentencing is scheduled for January 2015.
The undercover operation to trap Bouterse took about nine months. Documents indicate that he was approached by two confidential informants of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who claimed to have ties with Mexican drug organization who were looking to set up shop in Suriname.
According to the indictment, Bouterse promised that he could help with the cocaine trafficking operation and that he also could provide firearms. A test run of 10 kilos of cocaine he tried to export from Suriname to the US was seized in Trinidad and Tobago.