Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrests Of Drug Kingpin Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, The Former Head Of The Guinea-Bissau Navy, And Six Others For Narcotics Trafficking Offenses
Four Of The Defendants Are Also Charged With Terrorism Offenses In Indictments Unsealed Today
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 that five defendants – JOSE AMERICO BUBO NA TCHUTO, the former head of the Guinea-Bissau navy; MANUEL MAMADI MANE; SALIU SISSE; PAPIS DJEME; and TCHAMY YALA – arrived in the Southern District of New York on April 4, 2013. In a related action, RAFAEL ANTONIO GARAVITO-GARCIA and GUSTAVO PEREZ-GARCIA, both Colombian nationals, were arrested in Colombia today pursuant to Interpol Red Notices. MANE, SISSE, GARAVITO-GARCIA, and PEREZ-GARCIA are charged with conspiring to engage in narco-terrorism; conspiring to import narcotics into the United States; and 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. MANE, SISSE, and GARAVITO-GARCIA are also charged with 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. NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA face charges of conspiring to import narcotics into the United States. NA TCHUTO has been designated a drug kingpin by the U.S. Treasury Department. The five defendants in New York were presented in U.S. Magistrate Court today.
On April 4, 2013, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Special Operations Division (SOD), Bilateral Investigative Unit (BIU) Narco-Terrorism Group (NTG), working in conjunction with the DEA Lisbon Country Office and the DEA Bogota Country Office concluded a long-standing undercover operation conducted in Guinea-Bissau and elsewhere. The operation consisted of two separate undercover investigations. During the first part of the operation, NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA were arrested on April 2 by the DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) and the NTG off the coast of West Africa while onboard a vessel under DEA control in international waters. During the second part of the operation, MANE and SISSE were apprehended on April 4 in a West African Country and transferred thereafter to the custody of the United States. NA TCHUTO, DJEME, YALA, MANE, and SISSE were transported to New York for prosecution. GARAVITO-GARCIA and PEREZ-GARCIA remain in Colombia pending extradition to the United States.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The narco-terrorism conspiracy alleged in these indictments shows the danger that can grow unchecked in far away places where unfortunate circumstances can allow narcotics traffickers and terrorism supporters to transact unseen at great risk to the United States and its interests. The link between narcotics traffickers and terrorists, their financers and supporters, needs to be broken wherever it is found. But thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our DEA partners, who have for years attacked the narco-terrorism threat, this conspiracy was thwarted and we can claim yet another victory in our unrelenting campaign against those who would harm Americans and American interests abroad.”
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said: “These DEA arrests are significant victories against terrorism and international drug trafficking. Alleged narco-terrorists such as these, who traffic drugs in West Africa and elsewhere, are some of the world’s most violent and brutal criminals. They have no respect for borders, and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors. These cases further illustrate frightening links between global drug trafficking and the financing of terror networks. Thanks to the skilled work and bravery of our agents and law enforcement partners, these criminals will face accountability in a U.S. court for their heinous deeds.”
According to the Indictments against MANE, SISSE, GARAVITO-GARCIA, and PEREZ-GARCIA unsealed today:
Beginning in the summer of 2012, the 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, 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 for providing safe passage for the cocaine through Guinea-Bissau.
Also during those meetings, 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.
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 the shipment of cocaine to Guinea Bissau inside loads of military uniforms, and by establishing a front company in Guinea Bissau to export the cocaine from Guinea Bissau to the United States. In addition, MANE agreed to assist in obtaining weapons for the FARC. On or about July 3, 2012, during another recorded meeting in Guinea Bissau, MANE, SISSE, and GARAVITO-GARCIA met with the Confidential Sources and a Guinea Bissau military representative and discussed the benefits of using Guinea Bissau as a transshipment point for cocaine obtained in South America and destined for the United States, the process for offloading the cocaine once it arrived in Guinea Bissau, and the nature of the weapons to be supplied to the FARC to combat American forces in Colombia, including surface-to-air missiles and AK-47 assault rifles with grenade launchers.
On August 31, 2012, during a recorded meeting in Bogota, Colombia, GARAVITO-GARCIA and PEREZ-GARCIA agreed to facilitate the receipt of approximately 4,000 kilograms of cocaine from the FARC in Guinea Bissau, approximately 500 kilograms of which would later be sent to customers in the United States and Canada. During a recorded meeting in Guinea Bissau with MANE and SISSE that took place on November 13, 2012, a Guinea Bissau military official advised one of the CSs that the weapons transaction could be executed 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.
According to the Indictment against NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA also unsealed today:
Beginning in the summer of 2012, the three defendants engaged in a series of recorded meetings in Guinea-Bissau with confidential sources (the “CSs”) working with the DEA who purported to be representatives and/or associates of South American-based narcotics traffickers.
In an early meeting in which the defendants discussed the shipment of ton-quantities of cocaine from South America to Guinea Bissau by sea, NA TCHUTO noted that the Guinea Bissau government was weak in light of the recent coup d’etat and that it was therefore a good time for the proposed cocaine transaction. In further meetings, NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA agreed to assist the CSs by receiving a two-ton load of cocaine that would be transported to Guinea-Bissau by boat and stored in a warehouse for distribution to Europe and the United States. For example, on November 17, 2012, NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA met with two of the CSs in Guinea- Bissau and discussed importing 1,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Also during the meeting, NA TCHUTO offered to utilize a company that NA TCHUTO owned to facilitate the shipment of cocaine out of Guinea-Bissau. In a previous meeting, NA TCHUTO stated that his fee would be $1,000,000 per 1,000 kilograms of cocaine received in Guinea Bissau.
MANE, SISSE, GARAVITO-GARCIA, and PEREZ-GARCIA have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to engage in narco-terrorism (Count One), 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 (Count Two), and one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to an FTO (Count Three). MANE, SISSE and GARAVITO-GARCIA are also charged with one count of conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles (Count Four). Counts One, Two, and Four each carry a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, and Count Three carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison. MANE and SISSE are next scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff on April 9, 2013 at 11:30 a.m.
NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA have each been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing or intending that the cocaine would be imported into the United States. The charge carries a maximum potential sentence of life in prison. NA TCHUTO, DJEME, and YALA are next scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman on April 15, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.
The arrests and transfers of the defendants were the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, DEA’s SOD and FAST, the DEA Lisbon Country Office, the DEA Bogota Country Office, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. State Department.
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.