DEFENDANTS CONVICTED OF DRUG TRAFFICKING
The testimony at trial revealed that Salazar acted as a
broker in a 2,000-kilogram drug transaction between Colombian drug traffickers
and Nayef Bin Sultan Bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan. Al Shaalan is a Prince in
the Saudi Arabian royal family but is not in direct accession to the
throne. In early to mid-1998, one of the Colombian drug traffickers was
contacted by co-defendant Ivan Lopez Vanegas regarding brokering a drug
deal between Colombian drug traffickers, who were in need of ways in
which to transport cocaine, and Al-Shaalan, who had the ability to transport
large quantities of cocaine to any place in the world under the cover
of diplomatic immunity.
In December 1998, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, all four defendants and the Colombian drug traffickers, were taken by Al-Shaalan to an encampment in the desert. There the defendants and the co-conspirators discussed the details of a drug transportation scheme. Specifically, the Colombian drug traffickers agreed to “front” all of the cocaine and deliver the cocaine to Al-Shaalan in Caracas, Venezuela. Al-Shaalan would then transport the cocaine to Paris, France, aboard his private jet. Once in Paris, the Colombian drug traffickers would regain possession of the cocaine. After sale of the cocaine, valued at over $30 million dollars, Al-Shaalan would take half of the profits in United States currency as payment for the transportation of the cocaine. Lopez Vanegas and Salazar were to be paid a brokerage fee.
In February 1999, a meeting was held in Aruba that all defendants attended as well as one of the Colombian drug traffickers. During the meeting, plans were finalized to deliver in May 1999, approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine to Al-Shaalan’s jet in Caracas, Venezuela, so that it could be flown to Paris. In May 1999, the Colombian drug traffickers purchased the 2,000 kilograms of cocaine which were transported to a warehouse in Venezuela. One of the drug traffickers met with Al-Shaalan in Caracas to coordinate the delivery of the cocaine to Al-Shaalan’s jet. After the cocaine was loaded into the jet, it took off to Paris, France, via Saudi Arabia. On May 16, 1999, Al-Shaalan’s jet arrived at the Bourget airport in Paris. Once in Paris, the cocaine was off-loaded and taken to a “stash house” in a suburb of Paris, where it was counted and stored for distribution. Lopez Vanegas coordinated the sale of some of the cocaine to buyers in Italy and Spain. While being transported to Spain, Spanish authorities seized approximately 190 kilograms. On July 5, 1999, French authorities seized an additional 804 kilograms of cocaine from the Paris stash house. After these seizures, a dispute arose between the co-conspirators as to whom was responsible for law enforcement’s seizure of the cocaine and loss of profits resulting from the seizures. Before the dispute could be resolved, however, the Colombian drug traffickers were arrested in early 2000 and began cooperating with the United States government. Thereafter, there were numerous recorded telephone conversations and/or meetings with Vanegas.
On July 17, 2002, Salazar was arrested by DEA Miami Field Division agents at her Coral Gables, Florida residence. Later that day, two search warrants were executed on her residence and two safes on the premises were among the items searched. From the locked safes, DEA agents seized photographs of all the defendants in the desert, which corroborated the testimony given by a cooperating witness. The government noted that photographs found in Salazar’s safe were the same photographs provided to the government by the cooperating witnesses. DEA agents also seized two large portraits of Al-Shaalan and five of her passports - four Colombian and one from the United States - evidencing Salazar’s trips to Spain, Saudi Arabia and Aruba.
“This verdict is a tribute to the efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Attorney’s Office, and our international partners, particularly the French and Swiss authorities. We look forward to the day when the other defendants including Prince Nayef Bin Sultan Bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan appear in this courthouse to face the charges that are pending” said Mark R. Trouville.
Mr. Jiménez stated, “In this case, the drug traffickers
used powerful people to create a facade of legitimacy to help them conceal
their drug trafficking activities. We will do everything in our power
to aggressively dismantle these organizations who deal in narcotics distribution
world-wide.” Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts
of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
and the Internal Revenue Service.