The son of the President of Suriname has been arrested on U.S. drug and weapon charges, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Dino Bouterse, Director of Suriname’s anti-terrorism unit, was arrested Thursday in Panama by local authorities and turned over to U.S. agents, said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
His arrest, according to an Associated Press (AP) story, comes as his father, Desi Bouterse, himself convicted of drug offences, hosts the annual UNASUR summit for leaders of South American countries. Officials in Suriname announced Friday that the opening statement by Desi Bouterse would be postponed by several hours.
Local government officials have declined further comment.
Dino Bouterse was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court yesterday afternoon after being flown to New York late Thursday, officials said.
“Bouterse is a significant drug trafficker,” said Derek Maltz, special agent-in-charge with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Bouterse faces a U.S. federal indictment alleging he worked with a man identified as Edmund Quincy Muntslag to smuggle cocaine into the United States starting in or about December 2011. It also charges him with violating firearms laws by brandishing a light anti-tank weapon during the narcotics offense.
The indictment says Bouterse was involved in smuggling a suitcase filled with 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine aboard a commercial flight from Suriname to the Caribbean in late July.
Federal prosecutors said Muntslag was arrested Thursday in Trinidad.
Bouterse’s father is a former coup leader and convicted drug trafficker who was elected president of Suriname in July 2010. Shortly after his inauguration, Bouterse appointed his son as director of Suriname’s Counter Terrorist Unit, drawing heavy criticism from opposition legislators who expressed concern that no legal framework was created for the unit to operate.
In 2011, unit officials were criticized for acting as police officers when they killed two men suspected in several violent crimes.
In August 2002, prosecutors in Suriname charged Dino Bouterse with stealing 50 guns from the government intelligence service. Police at the time accused Bouterse of fleeing to Curacao to avoid arrest, although his father said Bouterse had traveled there for personal business.
A year later, prosecutors dropped charges, citing a lack of evidence.
Police detained the younger Bouterse again in September 2004 after seizing a large number of assault weapons, ammunition and 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine from a local auto shop.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison in August 2005 after a judge found him guilty of leading a ring that trafficked in cocaine, illegal arms and stolen luxury cars.
Dino Bouterse is not unknown in Guyana. He is mentioned in the famous Wikileaks cables.
In 2006, former US Ambassador to Guyana, Roland Bullen, in a confidential cable to his superiors in Washington DC, US, said that the younger Bouterse may have been involved in moving weapons to the village of Buxton on the East Coast of Demerara, at the time known to be a hotbed of criminal activities.
“Desi Bouterse’s son Dino organized a Surinamese soccer team’s trip to Buxton a few years ago. It is believed that the team bus carried weapons to Buxton,” the cable said.
That particular cable examined the relationship between convicted Guyanese drug kingpin Roger Khan and President Bouterse, and the fallout from the former’s arrest shortly before.
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