The DEA has apparently uncovered "hard evidence" of connections between the president of Suriname and a high-profile convicted drug lord, in what would amount to the first concrete proof against a leader long suspected of ties to organized crime.
According to Dutch news service NRC, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has records taken from the satellite phone of notorious Guyanese drug trafficker Shaheed "Roger" Khan that prove he was in contact with current Surinamese President Desi Bouterse during 2005 and 2006. Khan was arrested after a 2006 sting operation in Suriname's capital Paramaribo -- while Bouterse was an opposition politician -- and was extradited to the United States via Trinidad. He received a 40 year jail sentence for drug trafficking in 2009.
For years, the United States has publicly highlighted Bouterse's connections to drug trafficking based on a 2000 conviction in absentia by a Netherlands court, but has never presented a case against him.
Bouterse previously served as the country's military dictator from 1980 to 1987, and in 2010 was elected president. Suriname's government last year approved an amnesty which prevented a murder trial against Bouterse for the 1982 killing of 15 opponents during his first period in power -- an act for which he has accepted "political responsibility."
In August, his son Dino Bouterse -- head of Suriname's anti-terrorism unit -- was captured in Panama and deported to the United States, where he now faces drugs trafficking charges.
InSight Crime Analysis
If the DEA really can prove the connection between Bouterse and Khan it will be very damning indeed. A US cable leaked in 2011 accused Bouterse of working with Khan to smuggle cocaine until at least 2006, providing him with "access to Surinamese criminal elements and structures, eased access to regular shipping to Europe for drug movement, and protection while in Suriname." They also allege Khan exchanged weapons for cocaine with Colombian rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, something Bouterse himself has also been accused of.
Suriname is a significant transshipment point for drugs heading to Europe and Africa, a role that has been facilitated by corruption running to the highest levels. According to the State Department's 2013 International Narcotics Strategy Report corruption is pervasive "throughout all levels of government" and there is "evidence of drug-related corruption among government officials."