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Press Release

Member Of Guinea Bissau-Based International Narcotics Trafficking Conspiracy Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 78 Months In Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that PAPIS DJEME, a citizen of Guinea Bissau, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 78 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States. DJEME was arrested on April 2, 2013, by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) Special Operations Division, Bilateral Investigative Unit Narco-Terrorism Group, and the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (“FAST”) off the coast of West Africa while onboard a vessel under DEA control in international waters. On April 29, 2014, DJEME pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who also imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “From start to finish, this case has shown that US law enforcement will bring to justice traffickers who bring illegal drugs into this country, even when their criminal acts span four continents. Djeme and his codefendants conspired to transport drugs between South America and West Africa and sell them in Europe and the US. Now he faces 78 months in federal prison here.”

According to the Indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at DJEME’s guilty plea and today’s sentencing:

Beginning in the summer of 2012, DJEME and his co-defendants, former Guinea Bissau Naval Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Natchuto and Tchamy Yala, 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 Natchuto and Yala discussed the shipment of ton-quantities of cocaine from South America to Guinea Bissau by sea, Natchuto noted that the Guinea Bissau government was weak in light of the recent coup d’état and that it was therefore an ideal time for the proposed cocaine transaction. At an October 2012 meeting, DJEME advocated using “go-fast” boats to transport the cocaine into Guinea Bissau, because such boats could more easily navigate the waters of Guinea Bissau, and provided a photograph of the type of “go-fast” boat that could be used to transport the cocaine, as well as information for the purchase of such boats.

In further meetings, DJEME, Natchuto, 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 Guinea Bissau for distribution to Europe and the United States. For example, on November 17, 2012, DJEME and his co-defendants 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, Natchuto offered to utilize a company that he owned to facilitate the shipment of cocaine out of Guinea Bissau. DJEME agreed to provide the two CSs with business documents for Natchuto’s company, and additionally confirmed that he and Yala would handle the security of the drugs in Guinea Bissau, with only DJEME, Natchuto, and Yala knowing the precise location of the drugs.

At a meeting the following day at which DJEME was present, Natchuto confirmed that he would charge a fee of $1,000,000 per 1,000 kilograms of cocaine received in Guinea Bissau. DJEME provided the confidential source who was posing as the cocaine supplier with a Skype account and two email addresses. The CSs later received emails from the accounts provided by DJEME, including a December 2012 email with longitude and latitude coordinates for where the boat transporting the cocaine from South America could meet the “go fast” boat off the west coast of Africa, so the cocaine could then be brought to Guinea Bissau on the “go fast” boat.

In addition to his prison term, DJEME, 31, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

On April 28, 2014, DJEME’s co-defendant, Tchamy Yala, pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States. Yala’s sentencing is scheduled to take place before Judge Berman on November 17, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA. Mr. Bharara also thanked DEA’s FAST, Lisbon Country Office, and Bogota Country Office, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Department of State.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Aimee Hector is in charge of the prosecution.

U.S. v. Papis Djeme S1 Indictment

Updated May 18, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-252