SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The son of the president of the South American country of Suriname has been arrested on U.S. drug charges, U.S. and other officials said Friday.
Spokeswoman Virginia Elliott at the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo confirmed the arrest of Dino Bouterse, but said she could give no details.
A Panamanian and another U.S. official confirmed Thursday's arrest, which apparently occurred in Panama.
Bouterse faces a U.S. federal indictment in the Southern District of New York 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.
A Panamanian government security source said that Bouterse was arrested by international police in Panama and was turned over to U.S. anti-drug authorities. The source, who asked anonymity for lack of authorization to speak on the issue, declined to give more details.
Melvin Linscheer, Suriname's head of national security, said the government would soon issue a statement. He declined further comment.
Bouterse is the son of Desi Bouterse, a former coup leader and convicted drug trafficker who was elected president of in July 2010. Shortly after his presidential 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.
Prior to his appointment, Dino Bouterse had been charged by Surinamese authorities for various 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 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.
The arrest comes as Suriname hosts the annual UNASUR summit for leaders of South American countries.
President Desi Bouterse, who was busy at the summit, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Bouterse, a two-time dictator who first seized power during a 1980 coup, has also been targeted by local and international authorities.
He was convicted in absentia in 1999 on drug trafficking charges by a court in the Netherlands, and he is accused at home of executing 15 political opponents in 1982.
Bouterse has said he intends to run for a second elected term as the 2015 elections approach. The former Dutch colony of some 560,000 people is located on the shoulder of South America. Its economy relies largely on exports of alumina, gold and oil, although roughly 70 percent of is population lives below the poverty level.
Associated Press reporters Ben Fox in Miami, Alicia Caldwell in Washington D.C., Juan Zamorano in Panama City, Panama and Arney Belfor in Paramaribo, Suriname, contributed to this report.
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