US Embassy says son of Suriname president arrested

Topics: From the Wires,

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The son of the president of the South American country of Suriname has been arrested, a U.S. Embassy official and other sources said Friday.

Spokeswoman Virginia Elliott said the embassy in Paramaribo would soon release more information on the arrest of Dino Bouterse, but Panamanian and another U.S. official confirmed Thursday’s arrest, which apparently came in Panama.

A U.S. official in Washington said Bouterse was arrested while traveling on a diplomatic passport. The official said he has been indicted in the Southern District of New York on drug and weapons charges, including cocaine trafficking.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sealed indictment, said Bouterse could face a life sentence if convicted of all of the charges.

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.

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.

___

Associated Press reporters 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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