Surinamese Official Loses Diplomatic Immunity Plea in Drug Case
MIAMI (AP) _ A judge has rejected a top Surinamese official’s claim to diplomatic immunity from charges he offered his South American nation as a drug traffickers’ way station.
The decision by U.S. Magistrate Samuel J. Smargon to deny diplomatic immunity for Capt. Etienne Boerenveen was announced Friday, two days after a hearing.
Boerenveen, 28, was arrested in Miami on March 24 with two other Surinamese after meeting with undercover U.S. drug agents.
He is one of five top officers in the Surinamese army and is considered close to Cmdr. Desi Bouterse, an army sergeant who led a coup in 1980 and only recently began returning the country to civilian rule.
Boerenveen is in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center southwest of Miami with Ricardo Heymans, 34, Miami manager of the government-owned Suriname Airlines, and his father, Cilvion Heymans, 64, who lives in Amsterdam and claims citizenship in both Suriname and the Netherlands.
They have been held without bond since their arrest.
According to an affidavit by one of the agents, the Surinamese had made a deal to provide military protection and airstrips for drug smugglers en route to the United States in exchange for $1 million per shipment.
The government has presented videotapes of meetings between the three men and undercover agents posing as drug traffickers.
The Surinamese government countered with documents saying Boerneveen was on an official government mission to Florida to buy equipment for the fisheries department and therefore was entitled to diplomatic immunity.
At a hearing Wednesday before Smargon, defense attorney Phillip Gerson argued that under a 1961 treaty between the United States and Suriname, Boerenveen was entitled to diplomatic protection as a member of his country’s mission to the United States.
Smargon delayed his decision to study relevant court cases as well as the treaty.
The three defendants have been charged with conspiracy to import and distribute drugs into the United States, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence and $100,000 penalty. They are also charged with violations of the Travel Act, punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Suriname is a Georgia-sized country of 400,000 people on the northeast coast of South America between Guyana and French Guiana.