Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Antonio Indjai, Chief Of The Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces, For Conspiring To Sell Surface-To-Air Missiles To A Foreign Terrorist Organization And Narco-Terrorism Conspiracy
Indjai Also Charged With Providing Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Conspiring to Import Narcotics Into the United States
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today the unsealing of charges against ANTONIO INDJAI, the head of the Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces, for conspiring to provide aid to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (the “FARC”), a South American paramilitary group long designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (“FTO”), by storing FARC-owned cocaine in West Africa; conspiring to sell weapons, including surface-to-air missiles to be used to protect FARC cocaine processing operations in Colombia against U.S. military forces; and conspiring to import narcotics into the United States; INDJAI has been the subject of a United Nations travel ban since May 2012 as a result of his alleged participation in the April 2012 coup d'état in Guinea-Bissau.
INDJAI’s co-conspirators Manuel Mamadi Mane and Saliu Sisse were apprehended in a West African Country on April 4, 2013, and thereafter transferred to the custody of the United States and transported to the Southern District of New York for prosecution. Co-conspirators Rafael Antonio Garavito-Garcia and Gustavo Perez-Garcia were apprehended in Colombia on April 5, pursuant to Interpol Red Notices, and remain in Colombia pending extradition to the United States. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, 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 so they could 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. As with so many allegedly corrupt officials, he sold himself and use of his country for a price. The charges against Indjai, together with the recent arrests of his co-conspirators, have dismantled a network of alleged narco-terrorists, and once again showcased the extraordinary work of our DEA partners who, at great personal risk, travel across the globe to investigate and make arrests in these cases in order to protect the American people and American interests here and abroad.”
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said: “Today’s indictment reflects DEA’s commitment to securing our nation and protecting our citizens. These charges reveal how Indjai's sprawling drug and terror regime threatened the national security not only of his own country, but of countries across the globe. As the head of Guinea-Bissau's Armed Forces, Indjai had insider access to instruments of national power that made him an allegedly significant player in West Africa's dangerous drug trade. Partnering with individuals he believed to be part of a terrorist organization like the FARC served to expand Indjai's criminal activities and the damage he could cause. Due to our worldwide reach and unrelenting efforts, DEA and our partners took decisive action against this narco-terrorist and his network of facilitators."
According to the Indictment against INDJAI that was unsealed today and previously unsealed Indictments against his co-conspirators:
INDJAI became the head of the Guinea-Bissau armed forces in June of 2010. Beginning in the summer of 2012, he and his co-defendants communicated with confidential sources (the “CSs”) working with the DEA who purported to be representatives and/or associates of the FARC. The communications occurred by telephone, over e-mail, and in a series of audio-recorded and videotaped meetings over several months in Guinea-Bissau.
During meetings in Guinea-Bissau beginning in June 2012, and continuing through at least mid-November 2012, INDJAI, Mane, Sisse, Garavito-Garcia, and Perez-Garcia agreed to receive and store multi-ton shipments of FARC-owned cocaine in Guinea-Bissau. The defendants agreed to receive the cocaine off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, and to store the cocaine in storage houses there pending its eventual shipment to the United States, where it would be sold for the financial benefit of the FARC. The defendants further agreed that a portion of the cocaine would be used to pay Guinea-Bissau government officials, including INDJAI, for providing safe passage for the cocaine through Guinea-Bissau.
Also during those meetings, INDJAI, Mane, Sisse, and Garavito-Garcia agreed to arrange to purchase weapons for the FARC, including surface-to-air missiles, by importing them into Guinea-Bissau for the nominal use of the Guinea-Bissau military when in fact they intended to provide the weapons to the FARC.
For example, on June 30, 2012, during a recorded meeting in Guinea-Bissau with the CSs, Mane, Sisse, and Garavito-Garcia agreed to assist in the distribution of FARC cocaine by facilitating its shipment to Guinea-Bissau inside loads of military uniforms, and by establishing a front company in Guinea-Bissau to export the cocaine to the United States. In addition, Mane agreed to assist in obtaining weapons for the FARC by arranging a meeting with INDJAI. On July 2, 2012, at a recorded meeting with the CSs in Guinea-Bissau, INDJAI agreed to facilitate the shipment of cocaine to the United States through Guinea-Bissau and to procure weapons for the FARC, including surface-to-air missiles, knowing that the weapons would be used to combat United States forces operating in Colombia. During a recorded meeting in Guinea-Bissau with Mane, Sisse, Garavito-Garcia, and Perez-Garcia on November 13, 2012, a Guinea-Bissau military official advised one of the CSs that INDJAI would be ready to execute the weapons transaction once the FARC brought money to Guinea-Bissau, and that the anti-aircraft missiles to be sold to the FARC could be used against United States helicopters operating in Colombia.
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INDJAI has been charged with one count of conspiracy to engage in narco-terrorism; one count of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing or intending that the cocaine would be imported into the United States; one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to an FTO; and one count of conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles. Count One carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. Count Two carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. Count Three carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison. Count Four carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of life in prison.
The charges and investigation of these defendants were the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Special Operations Division and the Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Team of the DEA, the DEA Lisbon Country Office, the DEA Bogota Country Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office's Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Aimee Hector and Glen Kopp are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.