PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A son of Suriname’s president has been arrested in Panama and sent to New York to face charges of smuggling cocaine into the United States, U.S. authorities said on Friday.
An indictment against Dino Bouterse filed in a federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleges the 40-year-old imported more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States between December 2011 and August 2013.
Bouterse was arrested at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport on Thursday, authorities said.
He was arraigned on Friday in a Manhattan federal court for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States and for carrying a firearm or destructive device - an anti-tank rocket launcher and pistols - during a drug-related crime.
Both charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
According to the indictment, a man named Edmund Quincy Muntslag traveled to Suriname on July 25 to arrange the transport of 10 kilograms of cocaine to the United States.
On July 27, the indictment alleges, Bouterse “caused a suitcase containing 10 kilograms of cocaine to be transported from Suriname to the Caribbean on board a commercial flight.”
Muntslag was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday and charged with drug trafficking, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Bouterse’s father, Desi, is a former military dictator accused of human rights violations, including the killings of 15 political opponents in December 1982. He ruled the tiny South American country from 1980 to 1987, and reclaimed power in 2010.
Following Dino’s arrest, President Bouterse postponed his opening statement at the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit in Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, by three hours.
“I have heard about the news, but, at this moment, I am concentrating on the UNASUR meeting,” he told reporters shortly before opening the conference, declining to comment further.
Suriname’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was “monitoring developments closely.”
In a statement, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special-Agent-in-Charge Derek Maltz said Dino Bouterse had a “history of drug and weapons trafficking.”
A judge in Suriname sentenced the younger Bouterse to eight years in prison in 2005 for trafficking drugs, illegal weapons and stolen luxury cars. Nevertheless, his father gave him a senior post in the country’s counterterrorism unit.
Desi Bouterse was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands in 1999 for smuggling more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine to that country, but he never served any prison time as Suriname does not have an extradition treaty with the Netherlands.
Since being elected president in 2010, the elder Bouterse has obtained diplomatic immunity against the charges and Interpol dropped its arrest warrant for him.
Additional reporting by Louis Alfaisie in Paramaribo; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dave Graham and Stacey Joyce