A man who claims to be a senior South American counterterrorism official is charged in New York with attempting to provide material support to the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah. In exchange for millions of dollars, Dino Bouterse agreed to let large numbers of alleged Hizballah operatives establish a permanent base in Suriname. From there, the Hizballah terrorists could launch attacks, including against American targets.
Bouterse hails from an influential political family – his father is the nation's president – and he claims to have served as Commander of Suriname's counterterrorism unit. He was willing to use his political connections to provide fraudulent Surinamese passports and visas to enable the purported Hizballah operatives to travel undercover from South America into the United States Bouterse also allegedly contemplated providing heavy weapons to the alleged operatives.
An earlier indictment in August charged Bouterse with conspiring to import cocaine to the United States. He was also charged with carrying and brandishing a rocket launcher. Bouterse was arrested in Panama in late August and extradited to the U.S. the same month.
According to that indictment, Bouterse and co-defendant Edmund Quincy Muntslag met at a Suriname government office in June with DEA informants posing as members of a Mexican drug cartel. There, Bouterse and Muntslag agreed to ship drugs from Suriname to the United States. Bouterse allegedly showed the informants a rocket launcher and a kilogram of cocaine.
About a month later, Bouterse and Muntslag sent 10 kilograms of cocaine on a commercial flight flying out of Suriname as a test run. The cocaine was however intercepted by law enforcement officials after the flight departed Suriname.
Later in July, Bouterse met with one of the DEA informants in Europe and discussed hosting 30-60 Hizballah members. They could use Suriname for training and operations and also establish a Hizballah cell there to "act as a kind of personal armed force."
"We're going to need maybe 10 people who will stay permanently in Suriname. People that we can depend on and call up every second, any time…we need tough guys," the indictment says Bouterse told the informant. He added that "inside the country…we need a little fort that we can depend on. And we can call them at any time."
He also discussed opening bank accounts and purchasing property for the alleged Hizballah operatives in Suriname to facilitate their getting visas to travel to the United States. He said that everything was ready for the Hizballah members and that some "toys" (weapons) would be available for inspection upon their arrival in Suriname.
If convicted on all counts, Bouterse could face a prison sentence of 40 years to life.