Hizballah Bust Highlights Strong Connection Between Islamic Terrorism and Drug Trafficking
The Drug Enforcement Agency handed down an indictment this month in the case of a top Suriname counter-terrorism official. The DEA alleges that Dino Bouterse, "who held himself out as Commander of [Suriname's] Counter-Terrorism Unit," sought to aid Hizballah's global drug trafficking network, its operations in South America, and its operations against the United States. The scheme included training terrorists to launch attacks against the United States.
Bouterse is the son of Suriname President Desi Bouterse. He was arrested in Panama on August 29, 2013, and moved to the United States the following day.
Bouterse maintains his innocence.The operation he allegedly agreed to engage in hearkens back to conditions in pre-9-11 Afghanistan, when the Taliban harbored al Qaeda as it planned its devastating attacks on the United States.
According to the unsealed indictment, Bouterse sought to use his power and influence in his northern South American nation to assist Hizballah and even set up a training base in his country. That base was to host dozens of Hizballah agents. As part of the multi-million dollar deal, he also wanted an armed Hizballah guard for himself. He had agreed to provide false passports for Hizballah agents to facilitate their travel worldwide and into the United States. He agreed to help them build cover stories for their travel. He had also worked to supply cocaine for shipment to the United States, to fund Hizballah's operations.
What Bouterse did not know was that the Hizballah operatives he believed he was dealing with were actually U.S. anti-narcotics agents. The confidential U.S. agents initially posed as Mexican narcotics cartel members. The U.S. agents obtained video and audio recordings of some of their meetings with Bouterse.
In 2013, Bouterse used his position to assist individuals he believed were members of Hezbollah. 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 for the purpose of making clandestine travel easier, including travel to the United States; began determining which heavy weapons he might provide to Hezbollah; and indicated how Hezbollah operatives, supplied with a Surinamese cover story, might enter the United States.
In June 2013, Bouterse and Defendant-1 met in Suriname with DEA confidential sources (the “CSes”), in a local government office. During the meeting, Bouterse showed the CSes a rocket launcher and a kilogram of cocaine.
Approximately one month later, Bouterse and Defendant-1 worked to provide transportation and security for cocaine being sent through Suriname to the United States. As a test run, Bouterse and Defendant-1 sent ten 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 CSes to discuss opening Suriname to the CSes’ purported Hezbollah associates.