Son of Suriname’s President Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking, Terrorism

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The son of Suriname’s president, who served as head of the country’s counterterrorism unit, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, weapons, and terrorism charges, in the latest evidence of the depth of corruption in the Suriname administration.

On August 29, Dino Bouterse admitted to offering assistance to US agents posing as members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who wished to set up operations in Suriname, reported Al Jazeera.

During a federal court hearing, Bouterse stated that he gave a person he believed to be a Hezbollah operative a fake Surinamese passport. According to the indictment (pdf), Bouterse agreed to help the supposed Hezbollah operatives establish fake identities and to provide the group with weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to launch attacks against the United States and the Netherlands in exchange for an initial payment of $2 million.

Bouterse also pleaded guilty to weapons charges and conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, reported Bloomberg. The indictment states that Bouterse told two undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents posing as representatives of a Mexican drug trafficking organization that he could help them smuggle drugs and get weapons in Suriname.

InSight Crime Analysis

Dino Bouterse was arrested in Panama in August 2013 on drug trafficking and weapons charges and originally pleaded not guilty in a US federal court. Once US prosecutors added the terrorism charges, however, Bouterse accepted a plea deal.    

His father, President Desi Bouterse, has also been implicated in numerous criminal activities and was convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a Netherlands court in 1999. He is currently wanted for drug trafficking in France, and last year the DEA stated there was “hard evidence” that Desi Bouterse had ties to convicted Guyanese drug trafficker Shaheed “Roger” Khan. The president has also been implicated in a criminal network that exchanged weapons for cocaine with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Suriname

In addition to confirming the Bouterse family’s involvement in drug trafficking, the current case is a reminder of US concerns about Islamic militants operating in Latin America. Apart from the 2011 arrest of an Iranian-American accused of attempting to hire a Zetas hitman to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States — a plot that most likely did not involve actual collaboration from the Zetas — claims about members of Islamic armed groups operating in Latin America have proved largely unsubstantiated.

Recent InSight Crime investigations in Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este, part of the Triple Frontier region near the borders with Argentina and Brazil, found no evidence of a Hezbollah connection to the Lebanese businessmen operating there, despite allegations that Hezbollah receives considerable funding from the zone.

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