Suriname Leader’s Son Pleads Guilty to U.S. Charge

NEW YORK (AP) -

The son of the president of Suriname pleaded guilty on Friday to U.S. charges he sought to offer a home base in his South American country to the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbullah.

Dino Bouterse, once picked by his father to lead a counterterrorism unit in Suriname, told a judge in federal court in Manhattan that, as part of the scheme, he provided a false Surinamese passport to a person he believed was a Hizbullah 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 he conspired to smuggle drugs into the United States. He had already been extradited to the United States and jailed when authorities added terrorism charges accusing him of agreeing to accept a multimillion-dollar payoff in exchange for allowing large numbers of Hizbullah fighters to use Suriname as a base for attacking American targets.

An indictment detailed an elaborate international sting in which Bouterse was recorded meeting in Greece and Panama with people posing as Hizbullah operatives and Mexican drug traffickers. The operatives were actually confidential sources and undercover agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the indictment said.

At a meeting last year in Greece, the indictment said, Bouterse agreed to take a down payment of $2 million. In return, he said he would help Hizbullah fighters settle in Suriname, give them fake identities and arm them with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons for attacks on the U.S. and the Netherlands, Suriname’s former colonial ruler.

Bouterse also told the American agents that he was interested in using Hizbullah “tough guys” for operations inside Suriname.

“We need a little fort that we can depend on. And we can call them at any time,” he said, according to the indictment.

Bouterse’s father, Desi Bouterse, led a military dictatorship in Suriname in the 1980s, then returned to power when elected president by the country’s parliament in 2010. He has been accused of human rights violations, dating to when the country was under military rule, and he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands in 1999.