(HinterlandGazette) — Former head of Ginea-Bissau navy Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was arrested and appeared in federal court Friday on cocaine trafficking charges. He was apprehended while he traveled on a yacht in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Guinea-Bissau is a known point of entry and departure for drug-smuggling. Along with Rear Adm. Na Tchuto, Manuel Mamadi Mane, Saliu Sisse, Papis Djeme and Tchamy Yala were arrested. According to the federal indictment, Na Tchuto and two others face charges of conspiring to import narcotics into the U.S. He has been designated a drug kingpin by the U.S. Treasury Department, the indictment says.
Inspector Ron Kubisty said cocaine is smuggled into Guinea-Bissau from Colombia, or other Latin American countries. The drug shipments are then rerouted to European countries and the United States. The indictment also says Na Tchuto and others worked together to receive cocaine shipments transported by ships from South America to Guinea-Bissau. They then stored the shipments before final shipment to other locations. Also arrested were two Colombian nationals, Rafael Antonio Garavito-Garcia and Gustavo Perez-Garcia.
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.
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.”