The son of the president of Suriname pleaded guilty on Friday to US charges he sought to offer a home base in his South American country to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Dino Bouterse, once picked by his father to lead a counterterrorism unit in Suriname, told a judge in US federal court in Manhattan that as part of the scheme he provided a false Surinamese passport to a person he believed was a Hezbollah operative. He also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and firearms charges.
The guilty plea came a year after Bouterse’s arrest in Panama on charges that he conspired to smuggle cocaine into the US. He had already been extradited to the US and jailed when authorities added terrorism charges accusing him of agreeing to accept a multimillion-dollar payoff in exchange for allowing large numbers of Hezbollah fighters to use Suriname as a base for attacking US targets.
An indictment detailed an elaborate international sting in which Bouterse was recorded meeting in Greece and Panama with people posing as Hezbollah operatives and Mexican drug traffickers. The operatives were actually confidential sources and undercover agents with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the indictment said.
At a meeting last year in Greece, the indictment said, Bouterse agreed to take a down payment of US$2 million. In return, he said he would help Hezbollah fighters settle in Suriname, give them fake identities and arm them with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons for attacks on the US and the Netherlands, Suriname’s former colonial ruler.
Bouterse’s father, Desi Bouterse, led a military dictatorship in Suriname in the 1980s, then returned to power when he was elected president by the country’s parliament in 2010. He has been accused of human rights violations and he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands on drug trafficking charges in 1999.
Dino Bouterse faces a prison term of 15 years to life at sentencing on Jan. 6.
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