NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. prosecutors have charged the son of the president of Suriname with terrorism offenses, saying he agreed to provide heavy weapons and a home base in his South American country to undercover operatives pretending to be with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Dino Bouterse was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization in a grand jury indictment unsealed in New York on Friday.
Bouterse, who had been picked by his father to lead a "counterterrorism" unit in Suriname, is already in a U.S. jail and had previously been charged with cocaine trafficking. He was arrested in Panama in August and quickly extradited to the U.S.
One of his lawyers in New York, Florian Miedel, declined to comment on the new charges Friday, saying he needed time to review the allegations.
Prosecutors said Bouterse agreed to accept a multimillion-dollar payoff in exchange for allowing large numbers of Hezbollah fighters to use Suriname as a base for attacking American targets.
The indictment describes a sophisticated international sting in which Bouterse was recorded meeting in Greece and Panama with people posing as Hezbollah agents and Mexican drug traffickers. In reality, they were actually confidential sources and undercover agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the indictment said.
At one July meeting in Greece, the indictment said, Bouterse agreed to take a down payment of $2 million. In return, he said he would help Hezbollah fighters settle in Suriname, give them fake identities and arm them with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons for attacks on the U.S. and the Netherlands, Suriname's former colonial ruler.
Bouterse also told the American agents that he was interested in using Hezbollah "tough guys" for operations inside Suriname itself.
"We need a little fort that we can depend on. And we can call them at any time," he said, according to the indictment.
Bouterse's father, Desi Bouterse, led a military dictatorship in Suriname in the 1980s, then returned to power when he was elected president by the country's parliament in 2010. He has been accused of human rights violations, dating to the period when the country was under military rule, and was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands on drug trafficking charges in 1999.
Desi Bouterse has previously said that he was shocked by his son's arrest, but added that he was "responsible for his own actions."
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(Photo: REUTERS/Ranu Abhelakh)