NEW YORK: The son of the leader of Suriname pled guilty in New York on Friday to attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah, conspiring to traffic cocaine and a firearms offense.
Dino Bouterse, 41, a former counter-terrorism chief in his South American country who has already served time for drugs and weapons trafficking, now faces spending 15 years in a US prison.
He was arrested in Panama in August after meeting undercover US agents posing as Hezbollah associates to discuss giving the Lebanese group a base to attack American interests.
He was extradited to the United States immediately after his arrest, charged in November and entered his guilty plea before US district Judge Shira Scheindlin in a Manhattan court.
He pled guilty to one count of attempting to provide support to Hezbollah, one count of conspiring to import cocaine and one count of carrying a firearm in connection with that conspiracy.
According to the US indictment, Bouterse was given millions of dollars to allow dozens of purported Hezbollah operatives to use Suriname as a base to attack American targets.
He gave a false passport to an undercover officer pretending to be Hezbollah, offered to provide weapons and gave advice on how Hezbollah operatives might enter the US with a cover story.
At talks in Europe, he discussed hosting 30 to 60 Hezbollah members in Suriname for training and operations, and indicated he wanted a Hezbollah cell, in part, as a personal armed force.
He agreed to supply Surinamese passports to the operatives and assist with their applications for US visas.
When asked to secure surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, he said he would need "two months" and that he would provide a list of what he could supply.
Bouterse was jailed in 2005 for eight years for leading a gang that trafficked cocaine and weapons.
Released after three years, his father appointed him director of the country's anti-terrorism unit.
His father Desi Bouterse was elected president in the former Dutch colony in 2010 and led a military junta from 1980-1987.
Bouterse senior is accused of multiple rights violations and was in 1999 convicted in the Netherlands on cocaine smuggling but never arrested as Suriname does not extradite citizens.
The United States blacklisted Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 1995.