Bout could serve sentence in Russia – US Attorney General

May 16, 2012

RT.com on May 16, 2012 released the following (edited on May 17, 2012):

“The US may consider an application to transfer Viktor Bout, sentenced to 25 years in jail, to serve his prison term in Russia if it sends one, US Attorney General Eric Holder told Russian reporters.

The­ US Attorney General gave an exclusive interview to a number of Russian media outlets. A full interview will be published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily on Thursday.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated recently that the country will do everything possible to get Bout back.

Earlier this week, the US Bureau of Prisons announced that it was reconsidering its plan to send the Russian businessman to the high-security Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Bout’s attorney Albert Dayan said that he was informed about this decision on Tuesday. On the same day, prosecutors notified the judge in a letter that the Bureau of Prisons was re-evaluating where to transfer Viktor Bout from a federal lockup in Brooklyn.

Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military officer, was found guilty of conspiracy to kill US nationals, including military officers and employees, conspiring to use anti-aircraft missiles and selling millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. He is now serving his 25-year prison term in the US.

Russia has repeatedly condemned Bout’s trial on the grounds that the charges were not connected to any crime, but rather were over alleged criminal intent.The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement that blasted the US trial as politically motivated, adding that it has blacklisted the US officials involved in the case.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Uncle Sam fabricates crimes due to political agenda – Bout

May 14, 2012

RT.com on May 13, 2012 released the following:

“Convicted arms trafficker Victor Bout told RT in an exclusive interview his case is purely political. Bout says his false conviction exposes America’s justice system as one of a police state on the brink of dictatorship.

Bout, who continues to maintain his innocence, is serving 25 years for conspiring to kill US citizens and sell arms to Colombian militants.

This week, it was decided that Bout will be sent from a New York prison to a super-maximum security prison, despite his trial judge recommending medium-security confinement.

The Colorado prison is known as the ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies’, and houses America’s most-dangerous and violent criminals. Bout’s lawyer is fighting to overturn the decision.

RT: You are sentenced to a quarter of a century behind bars. What does it feel like?

Viktor Bout: They can put physically your body in jail but they cannot jail your spirit. If your spirit is free and you understand what freedom is – it is impossible to break you down to your knees. I know I did not commit anything to get that punishment. Whatever they allege me as crimes – these crimes would never exist, unless the US government would invent that crime.

They labeled that conspiracy with “kill Americans” which works like a magic bullet for the jury here. The trial was very similar to medieval witch-hunt trials of inquisition when you must confess that you did bad things.

I understand the reality. I try to bring the message to my friends and my family, to the Russian people: listen, what is happening to me is a pure political case.

RT: You’re in a process of appeal and you’ve also asked Russia’s State Duma to file a complaint against the US and Thailand. What are you hoping for legally and politically?

VB: Legally the lawyers would know better the precedent of American law and what my perspectives are and what they are going to do. But I have almost no hope because this system works so that once you’re put under judicial decisions – no judge, even the Supreme Court, would ever cancel that. Because this is a “truth in Über state”. Nobody can ever reconsider that decision. [In the US] it is accepted that juries cannot fail.

RT: We know you’re about to be transferred to prison in Colorado. Considering your family and lawyer are in New York, will this affect you a lot, this transfer?

VB: They are trying to put me in the most notorious underground jail in the mountains hidden underground so I could never see daylight again as a punishment. For them this is a chance to create more obstacles to a proper appeal.

RT: You said in court to the jury and DEA agents: “God knows the truth, you know the truth.” What is your message to the US officials today, maybe the US president?

VB: I have a message to the US president: “If you keep using those thugs named DEA agents who invent crimes, this would not help America to really solve the problem of drug wars. But instead of going to the real problem they would just create crimes because there is no danger for them to go to those who do not hide, provoke them, do their dirty tricks and frame people up instead of solving real problems with real drug traffickers.

RT: It has been reported you knew you were dealing with undercover agents, not FARC members, at the time of your arrest. Is this the case?

VB: I was not sure who they are. For me they were very strange people and by their posing I understood right away they have nothing to do with FARC at all.

RT: You were dubbed the ‘Merchant of Death’ – do you think this nickname affected your case more than it should have?

VB: Of course. This is what the entire story is about. First you create a myth, then you bring in people who already saw the movie… My company was doing transportation, but that was legitimate contracts with legitimate governments with all the formalities done properly.

RT: Why do you think they went after you?

VB: For them it does not matter whom they are going to pick up. The mass media is spoon-feeding the American population so they do not care whom they pick up.

RT: You’ve seen the movie about yourself with Nicolas Cage playing you. What do you think about his performance?

VB: I feel sorry for him because it is a very mediocre movie. I do not even think it is interesting to watch or that it is a fair representation of the problems of Africa.

RT: If you knew you’d be serving 25 years behind bars, would you act differently?

VB: I do not regret nothing in my life and I can face anything I did because I didn’t do anything wrong in my life.

RT: If you were a free man right now, do you know what you would be doing? Would you start something new?

VB: Of course. I’m already locked-up for four years behind bars by Uncle Sam. My life is ruined completely. I don’t have any money left at all. They have not only closed my company, but put executive orders claiming $3 billion from me.

I’m asking a challenging president of the US: show the proof that I ever owned those billions! At least I know where to get money for my defense team.

If you repeat something a thousand times – it becomes the truth. This is the recipe used by the US administration, just like they did with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

RT: Critics of your case have been saying it is anti-Russian. Is it the case?

VB: Of course it is anti-Russian. Look at what happened in Thailand during the extradition procedure. The criminal court of Bangkok denied the extradition. They applied tremendous pressure on the government of Thailand and actually bought me out, not extradited. We submitted an appeal to the Thai court and it is still not finished. The pressure was so huge they had to pass me to the American side. My case is still on the shelves in Thailand.

If there is a political will of the Thai government and they want to prove they have real, not mock, justice, and that they are not a colony of the US – they have to do a decision on my case.

RT: Will there be more ‘manufactured crimes’ when foreigners are brought unlawfully to American soil?

VB: The FBI and the DEA are manufacturing crimes regularly. I closely monitor such cases… This is how they fight their war on terror, because terror is not a state or a person.

RT: You said you’ll be able to return home earlier than your term is over. How is that?

VB: My case is purely political. Despite the American procedures the Russian public knows the truth.

My case shows the real condition of the American justice system of a police state close to dictatorship.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Guilty Pleas in African Terror Plot

April 18, 2012

Courthouse News on April 18, 2012 released the following:

“MANHATTAN (CN) – After jury selection began, two citizens of Mali pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Harouna Touré and Idriss Abdelrahman were charged with “agreeing to transport cocaine through West and North Africa with the intent to support the drug trafficking activities of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (‘AQIM’), and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (‘FARC’). Each of these organizations has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Touré, 35, and Abdelrahman, 37, were arrested in Ghana in December 2009, with a third defendant, Oumar Issa, who pleaded guilty in November 2011 and has been sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Touré and Abdelrahman face up to 15 years in prison at their sentencings, which are set for July 19 and 20.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


What is Behind Africa’s Illegal Gun-Running?

April 13, 2012

Think Africa Press on April 11, 2012 released the following:

“How and why international arms dealers like Viktor Bout operate.

Arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced to 25 years by a US federal court last week.

Widely known as the ‘merchant of death’, the 45-year-old Russian has delivered weapons and arms to a wide range of presidents, insurgents and rebels in Africa and the Middle East including the likes of Charles Taylor in Liberia and Jonas Savimbi in Angola. He was caught in a US sting in which his services were solicited for the supply of weapons to Colombia’s FARC rebels.

His companies have also in the past also delivered weapons, fuel and artillery pieces to supply US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Practicality not politics
While there is a great deal of moral posturing about the activities of Viktor Bout there is very little discussion or understanding of why entrepreneurs like Bout are hired and thrive. And the answers do not lie in questions of politics and morality but derive primarily from practical concerns.

Military aircraft usually fly from military bases, and the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War and after had few military bases in Africa.

To deliver cargoes of weapons, ammunition, armour and supplies to African governments or insurgents therefore, they needed to use civil aviation.

It became necessary to contract with either their own barely-disguised proprietary airlines or set up proxies to distance themselves from the deliveries of weapons, especially to countries or movements subject to international sanctions such as UNITA in Angola. This required them to operate under different rules. To understand this business it is necessary to know how aviation works.

Aviation
The passage of airplanes across the world’s skies is highly regulated. Each aircraft has to be registered in a jurisdiction whose civil aviation inspection procedures are recognised and accepted, and each aircraft must follow a rigorous schedule of maintenance.

Before aircrafts can take off with cargo or passengers, there is a mountain of paperwork and preparation which must be completed. The airspaces of the world belong to the country below it. Before one can fly into an airspace, local aviation authorities must give permission and be paid for ‘overflight’ or ‘landing’ rights.

There are particularly strict rules governing the passage of military aircraft, both in wartime and in the peaceful transit of neutral states, and it is usually very difficult to get permission for the military overflight of non-combatant states.

This is a powerful impetus to use civil aircraft for the transport of military and humanitarian goods instead of military aircraft. However, the landing and take-off rights of civil aircraft are also bound numerous rigorous procedures and regulations.

That is why air companies like those used by Viktor Bout were registered in relatively obscure jurisdictions such as Liberia and the Central African Republic. There they could take advantage of the intra-African treaties which allowed the free passage of ‘African’ aircraft within the continent and a lax system of aircraft inspection.

Fuelling war
Many of Africa’s wars paralysing socio-economic development, producing huge numbers of refugees, and building the foundations for chronic poverty, would have been difficult to wage or sustain without the participation of international criminals and arms dealers.

According to investigations by Le Soir of Belgium and Le Corrierre de Serra of Italy in 2001, “The Russian mafia has opened lanes for arms trafficking between Eastern Europe and Charles Taylor’s Liberia. The mafia has also furnished arms to the Ivoirian regime of General Guei when he had doubts of a favourable outcome to the September elections.”

There were several companies supplying the same weapons. Each had their own transport system. Many were in competition with each other. Viktor Bout was one of those who were able to get assistance in leasing aircraft to use in civil aviation in Africa. There were a number of white Zimbabweans who had flown for the Biafrans and UNITA in companies like Air Trans-Africa. There was even a Sierra Leonean entrepreneur flying from Britain or, most often, from the wide-open hub of Ostende in Belgium.

Most of these airplanes and their pilots and crew were employed by the air companies which owned the planes. They were not owned by people like Bout. They were chartered aircraft where an hourly rate was agreed. The actual owners were the Russian Air Force (through a web of subsidiaries) or the UCA (Ukrainian Cargo Airline) or analogous subsidiaries. There was a premium price paid for flying in war zones to allow for a higher insurance premium.

This was the way that the Russians and the Ukrainians found a way to supply their weapons and ammunition to Africa. They were already doing it in the Balkans and Afghanistan, often with the support of NATO. A key factor in this is that NATO countries, with the exception of the US and partially the UK and Canada, have virtually no cargo-carrying capacity of their own.

African wars and the need for Bouts
What no one is discussing in these international arms deals is just who is actually paying for the goods and the transport. In some areas, like in Angola, some of the costs could be defrayed by diamonds. In most cases the payment is arranged by political figures. For example, some of the weapons that poured into West African wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast were paid for by Jacques Chirac and Muammar Gaddafi and delivered thorough the local efforts of Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso. Mercenary soldiers were paid for the same way.

This type of crime goes unpunished. And this profession will not come to an end, because there is a ready market for the goods that are being sold. Africa is gradually becoming the last place where wars are fought with small arms. As other nations move towards heavy artillery, missiles, rockets and fighter aircraft, Africa is only gradually moving towards that level of sophistication. The basic truths of African warfare have not changed much.

Firstly, African warfare is ‘expeditionary’ warfare. This means there is no real use of mass troop formations since opposing forces are rarely of equal size to fight. Instead, troops pass through jungles, deserts, mangrove swamps and hostile terrain to get to the enemy, often under heavy fire from the bush. African insurgents are usually bands and groups of, often, irregular soldiers. Large-scale troop concentrations can sit in a city or town and maintain order, but they rarely can take the battle to the enemy.

Secondly, African armies have little equipment geared towards expeditionary warfare. This is a war of helicopters; an in and out movement of troops to jungle clearings or remote landing zones or the shooting up of ground formations by helicopter gunships when they can be located. But except for rented helicopters leased from the Ukraine and Russia, most of Africa is bereft of air mobile equipment. They are certainly bereft of African pilots (other than South Africans).

Thirdly, there are very few military aircraft in Africa capable of fighting or sustaining either air-to-air combat or performing logistics missions. There are very few airbases in the bush which allow cargo planes to land safely now that every rebel group has its share of RPGs and mortars. There are no fuel reserves at the airports outside most African capitals and there are no repair facilities. There is no air-to-air refuelling. Indeed, except for Denel in South Africa and an airbase in Ethiopia there are no places on the continent which perform aircraft maintenance. This lack of transport is critical to moving out the wounded. This takes its toll on the soldiers.

Fourthly, sustained African warfare (with some exceptions like Angola) is largely carried out on the ground with machetes, axes or some small arms. It does not always start off that way but the pressures of logistic resupply often means that ammunition runs out, mortar shells are expended and the only thing left is traditional weapons. Food has to be foraged or stolen as resupply is not always regular or sufficient. This makes for a chaotic type of combat with heavy civilian casualties. Fighting up close and personal with a machete on a village by village basis is much more dangerous to a civilian concentration.

Fifthly, this is mirrored in the lack of effective battlefield communications. In Africa the landline phone system doesn’t work in peacetime; why should it work during war? Sending orders and receiving information between the central staff and outlying units is a ‘sometimes’ process. It sometimes takes days to contact units operating far from command headquarters.

The realities of African warfare mean that the key to success or failure is the logistics chain. This is why the US is so keen to have a coherent and reliable transport policy even when the political niceties do not allow it to set up bases. It is also why men like Viktor Bout and his colleagues will always be there as they provide a service which is critically needed by combatants and their international supporters. They may be on the ‘wrong side’ much of the time but occasionally they are useful to all sides.”

The original article may be found here.

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Bout Asks Judge to Throw Out Conviction

March 28, 2012

The New York Times on March 28, 2012 released the following:

“By BENJAMIN WEISER

Updated 11:30 a.m. | Viktor Bout, a former Soviet Air Force officer who was convicted in November of conspiring to sell anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons to men he believed were terrorists intending to kill Americans, apparently believes that he does not deserve the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years — or any sentence, for that matter.

Mr. Bout’s lawyer has filed court papers asking a judge to refuse to sentence him next week in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The lawyer, Albert Y. Dayan, argued in a 14-page memorandum filed on Wednesday morning that Mr. Bout’s prosecution by the United States government was “the product of malice” and “private politics” stemming from “the then White House,” a reference to the Bush administration; Mr. Bout was taken into custody in Thailand in March 2008, and later sent to the United States.

His arrest followed a lengthy undercover sting operation run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which relied on cooperating informants who posed as members of the Colombian terrorist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC.

Under the law, Mr. Bout faces at least 25 years behind bars when he is to be sentenced on April 5, but Mr. Dayan, calling his client innocent and saying that his prosecution was the product of “outrageous, inexcusable” government conduct, called such a sentence “way too much under the facts and circumstances of this case.”

He asked that the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, dismiss the indictment. A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office had no comment.

After a three-week trial, Mr. Bout was convicted of conspiring to kill American nationals, as well as officers and employees of the United States; to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles (the count that carries the mandatory 25-year minimum term); and to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He could face up to life in prison on some counts.

In February, Judge Scheindlin did agree to a request by his lawyer that Mr. Bout be transferred from solitary confinement into the general prisoner population in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he had been held for 15 months.

The judge, who held a hearing into the matter, ruled that she could not “shirk my duty under the Constitution” and Supreme Court precedent “to ensure that Bout’s confinement is not arbitrary and excessively harsh.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Accused Member of Foreign Terrorist Organization Extradited to United States on Hostage Taking Charges

March 12, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 12, 2012 released the following:

“WASHINGTON— Alexander Beltran Herrera, 35, aka Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, aka Rodrigo Pirinolo, an accused member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been extradited from Colombia to face hostage taking and terrorism charges in the United States.

The extradition was announced by Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; and Dena Choucair, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.

Beltran Herrera was extradited from Colombia to the United States over the weekend to face charges in an indictment returned in the District of Columbia on February 22, 2011. The indictment, which names as defendants 18 members of the FARC, charges Herrera specifically with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking; three counts of hostage taking; one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Beltran Herrera is scheduled to be arraigned today at 11:15 a.m. before Judge Royce C. Lamberth in federal court in the District of Columbia. If convicted of all the charges against him, he faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

According to the indictment, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, which, since its inception in 1964, has engaged in an armed conflict to overthrow the Republic of Colombia, South America’s longest-standing democracy. The FARC has consistently used hostage taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Republic of Colombia. Hostage taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership. The FARC has characterized American citizens as “military targets” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

The indictment alleges that Beltran Herrera was a member of the 27th Front in the FARC’s Southern Block. Beltran Herrera was allegedly involved in the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gosalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on February 13, 2003 by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.

According to the indictment, Gonsalves, Howes, and Stansell were held by the FARC at gunpoint and were advised by FARC leadership that they would be used as hostages to increase international pressure on the government of the Republic of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands.

The FARC at various times marched the hostages from one site to another, placing them in the actual custody of various FARC fronts. At the conclusion of one 40-day march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, commanded by Daniel Tamayo Sanchez, who was responsible for the hostages for nearly two years, after which they were delivered to the FARC’s 1st Front. During part of this two-year period with the 27th Front, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned.

Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards, including Beltran Herrera, used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks, and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape. The indictment also accuses Beltran Herrera of using and carrying a military-type machine gun during the hostage taking and providing material support and resources to aid in the hostage taking and to aid the FARC.

“Today’s extradition underscores our resolve to hold accountable all those responsible for this crime and we will not rest until every one of them is brought to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“This extradition is another step toward justice on behalf of Americans taken hostage and held in chains by a Colombian terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We will not hesitate to bring to justice anyone who targets Americans around the world with violence to advance their political agendas.”

“This extradition further disrupts and dismantles the FARC, a foreign terrorist organization that has engaged in violent acts against American and Colombian citizens,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Choucair. “The outstanding, long-term cooperation between the Colombian National Police and U.S. law enforcement has struck another blow to international terrorism.”

This investigation is being led by the FBI’s Miami Field Division. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion and Fernando Campoamar-Sanchez from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Substantial assistance in the case was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Colombia. The Directorate of Intelligence (DIPOL) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (GAULA) of the Colombian National Police also provided substantial assistance.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


D.E.A. Squads Extend Reach of Drug War

November 7, 2011

The New York Times on November 6, 2011 released the following:

“By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Late on a moonless night last March, a plane smuggling nearly half a ton of cocaine touched down at a remote airstrip in Honduras. A heavily armed ground crew was waiting for it — as were Honduran security forces. After a 20-minute firefight, a Honduran officer was wounded and two drug traffickers lay dead.

Several news outlets briefly reported the episode, mentioning that a Honduran official said the United States Drug Enforcement Administration had provided support. But none of the reports included a striking detail: that support consisted of an elite detachment of military-trained D.E.A. special agents who joined in the shootout, according to a person familiar with the episode.

The D.E.A. now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations — including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize — that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.

The program — called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team — was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.

“You have got to have special skills and equipment to be able to operate effectively and safely in environments like this,” said Michael A. Braun, a former head of operations for the drug agency who helped design the program. “The D.E.A. is working shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way with host-nation counterparts.”

The evolution of the program into a global enforcement arm reflects the United States’ growing reach in combating drug cartels and how policy makers increasingly are blurring the line between law enforcement and military activities, fusing elements of the “war on drugs” with the “war on terrorism.”

Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in Latin America and counternarcotics, said the commando program carries potential benefits: the American teams could help arrest kingpins, seize stockpiles, disrupt smuggling routes and professionalize security forces in small countries through which traffickers pass drugs headed to the United States.

But there are also potential dangers.

“It could lead to a nationalist backlash in the countries involved,” he said. “If an American is killed, the administration and the D.E.A. could get mired in Congressional oversight hearings. Taking out kingpins could fragment the organization and lead to more violence. And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America.”

Because the presence of armed Americans on their soil raises sensitivities about sovereignty, some countries that have sought the assistance of the United States will not acknowledge it, and the D.E.A. is reluctant to disclose the details of the commando teams’ deployments. Others — like Mexico, which has accepted American help, including surveillance drones — have not wanted the commando squads.

Federal law prohibits the drug agency from directly carrying out arrests overseas, but agents are permitted to accompany their foreign counterparts on operations. The Americans work with specially vetted units of local security forces that they train and mentor. In “exigent circumstances,” they may open fire to protect themselves or partners.

The firefight in Honduras last March, described by officials of both countries, illustrates the flexibility of such rules. The Honduran minister of public security at the time, Oscar Álvarez, said that under the agreement with the D.E.A., the Americans normally did not go on missions.

But in that case, he said, a training exercise went live: an American squad was working with a Honduran police unit in La Mosquitia rainforest when they received word that a suspicious plane from Venezuela was being tracked to a clandestine landing strip nearby.

After the plane landed, the Honduran police identified themselves and the traffickers opened fire, officials of both countries said. After a 20-minute gunfight, the Hondurans and Americans seized the cocaine and withdrew to evacuate the wounded officer.

“I don’t want to say it was Vietnam-style, but it was typical of war action,” said Mr. Álvarez; he declined to say whether the Americans took part in the shooting, but another person familiar with the episode said they did.

The FAST program is similar to a D.E.A. operation in the late 1980s and early 1990s in which drug enforcement agents received military training and entered into partnerships with local forces in places like Peru and Bolivia, targeting smuggling airstrips and jungle labs.

The Reagan-era initiative, though, drew criticism from agency supervisors who disliked the disruption of supplying agents for temporary rotations, and questioned whether its benefits outweighed the risks and cost. The Clinton administration was moving to shut down the operation when five agents died in a plane crash in Peru in 1994, sealing its fate.

In 2000, when the United States expanded assistance to Colombia in its battle against the narcotics-financed insurgent group called FARC, the trainers were military, not D.E.A. But after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration assigned Mr. Braun, a veteran of the earlier effort, to design a new program.

Begun in 2005, the program has five squads, each with 10 agents. Many are military veterans, and the section is overseen by a former member of the Navy Seals, Richard Dobrich. The Pentagon has provided most of their training and equipment, and they routinely fly on military aircraft.

The deployments to Afghanistan have resulted in large seizures of drugs, and some tragedy: two of the three D.E.A. agents who died in a helicopter crash in October 2009 were with FAST. Last week, an agent was shot in the head when his squad came under fire while leaving a bazaar where they had just seized 3,000 kilograms, about 6,600 pounds, of poppy seeds and 50 kilograms, about 110 pounds, of opium. Airlifted to Germany in critical condition, he is expected to survive, an official said.

The commandos have also been deployed at least 15 times to Latin America. The D.E.A. said some of those missions involved only training, but officials declined to provide details. Still, glimpses of the program emerged in interviews with current and former American and foreign officials, briefing files, budget documents and several State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

For example, an American team assisted Guatemalan forces in the March 2011 arrest of Juan Alberto Ortiz-López, whom the D.E.A. considered a top cocaine smuggler for the Sinaloa cartel, an official said. Videos of the raid show masked men in black tactical garb; it is unclear if any are Americans.

A diplomatic cable describes another mission in Guatemala. On July 21, 2009, seven American military helicopters carrying D.E.A. and Guatemalan security forces flew to the compound of a wealthy family, the Lorenzanas — four of whom were wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

After a “small firefight” in which a bullet grazed a Lorenzana family member, agents found “large numbers of weapons and amounts of cash” but not the targets, who may have been tipped off, according to the cable. The Guatemalan news media documented the failure, portraying the joint operation as a “D.E.A. raid.”

A former head of Guatemala’s national security council, Francisco Jiménez, said in an interview that American participation in such operations was an “open secret” but rarely acknowledged.

In October 2009, another official said, the agency deployed a squad aboard a Navy amphibious assault ship, the Wasp, off the coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it focused on planes used for smuggling.

Cables also show the agency has twice come close to deploying one of its units to the Darién region of Panama, where FARC incursions have established cocaine smuggling routes. But both missions were aborted, for fears that it was too unsafe for the Americans or that their involvement could escalate the conflict.

FAST has repeatedly deployed squads to Haiti, helping to arrest three fugitives this year and train 100 Haitian counternarcotics officers this fall. Mario Andresol, the Haitian police chief, says he needs such help. “We know the smuggling routes,” he said, “but the problem is we don’t have enough people to go after them.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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