Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Three Leaders Of Peruvian Terrorist Organization Shining Path
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced terrorism, narcotics, and weapons charges against FLORINDO ELEUTERIO FLORES-HALA, a/k/a “Comrade Artemio,” VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, a/k/a “Comrade José,” and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO, a/k/a “Raul.” As set forth in the Indictment, FLORES-HALA, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO are leaders of the Peruvian-based terrorist organization Sendero Luminoso, or “Shining Path,” which has engaged in cocaine-trafficking and terrorist acts against Peruvian civilians and military, including bombings and massacres, since approximately 1980. FLORES-HALA is in the custody of Peruvian law enforcement. VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO remain at large. The three are accused of facilitating international narcotics trafficking in order to provide support for the terrorist organization. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, these defendants are leaders of a murderous paramilitary organization, and they themselves ordered ambushes that killed nearly two dozen Peruvian soldiers and police officers. The product of the Peruvian cocaine trade they plied and protected sometimes ends up for sale in the United States. Such a path is anything but shining; it is the path to prison.”
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart stated: “For decades, the Shining Path has fueled terror, addiction and instability across the globe using the proceeds of their drug trafficking. This investigation and our ongoing global efforts reflect DEA’s unwavering commitment to protecting our citizens from these violent and brutal narco-terror organizations. The DEA, along with our outstanding Peruvian law enforcement counterparts, will continue to attack this terrorist organization until they are completely dismantled.”
According to the Indictment:
For more than 30 years, the Shining Path has been an international terrorist group ostensibly committed to Maoist ideals and dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Peru. Initially founded and conceived as a political movement and an outgrowth of the Peruvian Communist Party, the Shining Path became a terrorist army engaged in bombings, massacres, and other acts of violence within Peru. The Shining Path has been designated by the United States Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization since the designation was first established in U.S. law in October 1997, and has remained on the list of designees ever since.
The Shining Path is styled as a military organization whose armed combatants in recent years have been concentrated in two geographically distinct factions in South Central Peru: the Upper Huallaga Valley (the “UHV”) and the territory bounded by the Apurimac and Ene River Valleys (the “VRAE”). The UHV and VRAE factions have in the recent past been led, respectively, by FLORES-HALA and VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO. Within each of the UHV and VRAE factions, the Shining Path’s members are divided into armed columns. JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO has served as a column leader in the VRAE faction of the Shining Path.
The Shining Path funds its terrorist activities, at least in part, with proceeds from the cocaine trade. For approximately the past decade, the Shining Path has sought to control all aspects of the cocaine trade in the UHV and the VRAE, which contain some of the world’s most fertile coca leaf producing areas. In addition to cultivating and processing its own cocaine for sale, the Shining Path levies a system of taxes called “cupos” on the cultivation, processing, and transit of cocaine in and through the UHV and the VRAE. The Shining Path also provides transport and armed security to drug trafficking organizations moving large loads of cocaine through and out of the VRAE and the UHV. FLORES-HALA, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO knew and understood that at least some of the cocaine the Shining Path grew, taxed, and transported was destined eventually to be sold in the United States.
For at least the past 10 years, the Shining Path has directed violent acts against Peruvian National Police (“PNP”) and Peruvian Army installations and personnel, and has conducted numerous violent attacks on counter-narcotics patrols, killing scores of soldiers and policemen. These acts of violence were intended to protect the Shining Path’s financial interests in the cocaine trade, to serve as reprisal for law enforcement efforts to eradicate illegal cocaine trafficking, and to arm itself by forcefully taking weapons from dead and wounded targets of its violent ambushes.
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In Count One of the Indictment, FLORES-HALA, 52, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, 54, and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO, 56, all Peruvian citizens, are charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, the Shining Path.
In Count Two, FLORES-HALA, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO are charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine with the intent to support terrorist activity.
In Count Three, FLORES-HALA is charged with aiding and abetting the discharge of firearms during and in relation to the terrorism offense charged in Count One. Specifically, Count Three charges that, on December 22, 2005, in Aucayacu, Peru, FLORES-HALA directed Shining Path members to fire automatic weapons at a passing PNP convoy, resulting in the killing of eight PNP officers.
In Count Four, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO, and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO are charged with aiding and abetting the discharge of firearms during and in relation to the terrorism offense charged in Count One. Specifically, Count Four charges that, on April 9, 2009, in Ayacucho, Peru, VICTOR QUISPE-PALOMINO and JORGE QUISPE-PALOMINO ordered and planned an ambush in which a group of Shining Path members, armed with assault rifles, detonated a series of mines on a road where a Peruvian Army patrol was passing, and followed with gunfire, killing 15 soldiers, wounding more than a dozen, and seizing 13 assault rifles.
Count One carries a maximum term of life in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Count Two carries a maximum term of life in prison, a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000. Counts Three and Four each carry a maximum term of life in prison, a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the Judge.
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These historic charges are the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the DEA, including the DEA’s Lima Country Office and Special Operations Division. The United States Government also worked closely with Peruvian Government authorities – the Peruvian National Police, the combined Peruvian armed forces and the Peruvian National Prosecutors Office; this Indictment would not have been possible without their ongoing cooperation and assistance. Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, the United States Department of State, and the United States Department of Defense for their ongoing assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara is in charge of the prosecution.
The allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.