Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014, 1:11 by GxMedia(BLOOMBERG).-A Suriname man accused of seeking to provide the Islamist group Hezbollah with a permanent South American base for staging attacks against the U.S. pleaded guilty in Manhattan to three counts.
Dino Bouterse, 41, who held himself out to be the commander of Suriname’s counter-terrorism unit, said today at a hearing in New York federal court that in 2013 he provided a fake Surinamese passport “to be used in support of Hezbollah” and brandished a pistol during related drug deals.
Bouterse, who pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, faces 15 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced Jan. 6, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said at the hearing.
The charges include attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to import more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S., and use of a destructive weapon during a drug-trafficking crime.
Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militant group and political party, is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Bouterse, who appeared in court wearing blue prison garb, used a Dutch interpreter for some exchanges with the judge and spoke slowly in English to admit to each charge.
As part of the plea bargain, the weapon specified in the drug-trafficking charge is a handgun instead of the anti-tank rocket launcher named in the indictment, which would have required a longer minimum sentence of 30 years.
Bouterse’s minimum sentence of 15 years may double if a terrorism enhancement applies to the case, Scheindlin said. He will also face deportation when he’s released from prison, she said.
The defendant is from “a politically influential Suriname family” and is “one of the more powerful figures” in Suriname, prosecutors had said in court papers.
Two confidential Drug Enforcement Administration sources who said they were connected to a Mexican narcotics trafficking organization met with Bouterse for about nine months, and he told them he could help run drugs and obtain weapons in Suriname, according to the indictment.
The case is U.S. v. Bouterse, 13-cr-00635, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).