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Coup leader charged for drugs

April 19, 2013

The US has charged the coup leader of Guinea-Bissau with drug trafficking and seeking to sell arms to Colombian rebels. Antonio Indjai is now the eighth person accused in the conspiracy.

António Indjai (Photo: Braima Darame)
Image: Braima Darame

The indictment charges Indjai (pictured above) with narco-terrorism conspiracy, conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to transfer anti-aircraft missiles to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels to shoot down US helicopters.

"From his position atop the Guinea-Bissau military, Antonio Indjai conspired to use his power and authority to be a middleman and his country to be a way station for people he believed to be terrorists and narco-traffickers," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

 The prosecutor added that Indjai's aim was to help FARC "store and ultimately transport narcotics to the United States, and procure surface-to-air missiles and other military-grade hardware to be used against United States troops."

Undercover sting operations began in August and culminated in dramatic arrests of some of the accused by US agents on a boat in international waters off West Africa earlier in April. Manhattan prosecutors unveiled the charges less than two weeks after bringing trafficking accusations against Guinea-Bissau's former navy chief and four others in the alleged trans-Atlantic plot.

Rounding up suspects

US federal agents arrested former navy chief Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and four accomplices in the raid in international waters. They will stand trial in New York.

Na Tchuto and co-defendants Papis Djeme and Tchamy Yala initially appeared in court on April 5. The judge ordered them detained without bail for plotting to aid cocaine shipments from Latin America to markets in the United States and Europe.

Prosecutors have named the other two caught in the raid, Manuel Mamadi Mane and Saliu Sisse, as Indjai's co-conspirators. The remaining two conspirators named by the prosecutors, Rafael Antonio Garavito-Garcia and Gustavo Perez-Garcia, await extradition from Colombia to the United States to face charges.

‘Across the globe'

As the country's military leader, Indjai oversaw an April 2012 coup that ousted the regime of Premier Carlos Gomes Junior. He agreed in May to hand power to a civilian transitional government headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, with elections set for within 12 months, a deadline now postponed.

US Drug Enforcement Agency administrator Michele Leonhart said that Indjai's "sprawling drug and terror regime threatened the national security not only of his own country, but of countries across the globe."

Bharara added that "as with so many allegedly corrupt officials, he sold himself and use of his country for a price."           

mkg/slk (Reuters, AFP, AP)