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Five, including former African naval commander, arrested in drugs-for-missiles plot

Na Tchuto

Five men, including the former chief of the navy of the small African nation of Guinea Bissau, were brought to the U.S. on April 5 to face narco-terror charges for trying to import cocaine aimed at financing surface-to-air missiles for the FARC South American terror group.

According to a joint statement by the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors on April 5, Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto—the former head of the Guinea-Bissau navy; Manuel Mamadi Mane; Saliu Sisse; Papis Djeme and Tchamy Yala– arrived in the Southern District of New York on April 4. Two Columbian men, Rafael Antonio Garavito-Garcia and Gustoavo Perez-Garcia, were arrested in Colombia the same day on Interpol Red Notices, said the DEA.

Mane, Sisse, Garavito-Garcia, and Perez-Garcia have been charged with conspiring to engage in narco-terrorism; conspiring to import narcotics into the United States; and conspiring to provide aid to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (the “FARC”), a South American paramilitary group designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO”), by storing FARC-owned cocaine in West Africa.  Mane, Sisse, and Garavito-Garcia are also charged with conspiring to sell weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, that prosecutors said would have allegedly been be used to protect FARC cocaine processing operations in Colombia against U.S. military forces.  Na Tchuto, Djeme and Yala, said the statement, face charges of conspiring to import narcotics into the U.S.  Na Tchuto, said the DEA, has been designated a drug kingpin by the U.S. Treasury Department. The five men faced a federal judge in New York on April 5.

On April 4, 2013, DEA Special Operations Division (SOD), Bilateral Investigative Unit (BIU) Narco-Terrorism Group (NTG), working alongside the DEA Lisbon Country Office and the DEA Bogota Country Office concluded a long-standing undercover operation conducted in Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere.  The operation consisted of two separate undercover investigations, said the DEA.  During the first part of the operation, Na Tchuto, Djeme and Yala, it said, were were arrested on April 2 by the DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) and the NTG off the coast of West Africa while onboard a vessel under DEA control in international waters. During the second part of the operation, Mane and Sisse were apprehended on April 4 in a West African Country and transferred thereafter to the custody of the United States.  Na Tchuto, Djeme, Yala, Mane, and Sisse were transported to New York for prosecution.  Garavito-Garcia an Perez-Garcia remain in Colombia pending extradition to the U.S., it said.

“These DEA arrests are significant victories against terrorism and international drug trafficking,” said DEA administrator Michele Leonhart. “Alleged narco-terrorists such as these, who traffic drugs in West Africa and elsewhere, are some of the world’s most violent and brutal criminals.  They have no respect for borders, and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors.  These cases further illustrate frightening links between global drug trafficking and the financing of terror networks. Thanks to the skilled work and bravery of our agents and law enforcement partners, these criminals will face accountability in a U.S. court for their heinous deeds.”

“The narco-terrorism conspiracy alleged in these indictments shows the danger that can grow unchecked in far-away places where unfortunate circumstances can allow narcotics traffickers and terrorism supporters to transact unseen at great risk to the United States and its interests,” sad Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.   “The link between narcotics traffickers and terrorists, their financers and supporters, needs to be broken wherever it is found.  But thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our DEA partners, who have for years attacked the narco-terrorism threat, this conspiracy was thwarted and we can claim yet another victory in our unrelenting campaign against those who would harm Americans and American interests abroad.”

 

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