Pilot Testifies of Reputed Drug Lord’s Plan to Form Own Country
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Reputed Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder Rivas wanted to use narcotics profits to set up his own country, and once gave a president of his South American homeland a bulletproof limousine, a witness says.
Lehder also told of making payoffs to Colombian senators, other public officials and police, John Finley Robinson testified in Lehder’s federal drug smuggling trial Monday.
Robinson was scheduled to resume testifying today.
Lehder, accused of leading the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel, is charged with smuggling 3.3 tons of the drug from Colombia into airports in Florida and Georgia from 1978 to 1980.
Robinson, a pilot, said Lehder paid him $80,000 a shipment to fly cocaine into this country.
He said he established a Bahamanian bank account for his payments, and later set up a Swiss corporation and bank account to launder drug money for Lehder.
″He said he wanted his own country, his own air force, his own police, everything,″ Robinson said.
Robinson testified that Lehder, who served two years in federal prison for marijuana smuggling, hated American police and ″said if they got in his way he would kill them.″
He described how Lehder once bribed a military commander with $35,000.
″He told me that he gave a bulletproof limousine to the president of Colombia,″ Robinson said.
The witness did not say which Colombian president was involved or identify any of the officials he said Lehder had bribed.
Robinson pleaded guilty in Los Angeles last week to one count of conspiracy to import cocaine, and admitted Monday that his testimony for the prosecution would be taken into consideration at his sentencing.
He said he made his first flight to Colombia in November 1977, flew back with Lehder and three suitcases full of cocaine to Fort Pierce, then to an airstrip near Lake Okeechobee.
″He said he always traveled with his children,″ said Robinson. Lehder referred to bags of cocaine as ″my children,″ another witness said earlier.
Robinson identified both Lehder, 38, and co-defendant Jack Carlton Reed, 56, of San Pedro, Calif., and described how he recruited Reed as a pilot for Lehder. When he was recruited, Reed was a dishwasher at a Utah ski resort, Robinson said.
″I trusted him and knew he was a good pilot,″ said Robinson.
Reed and Robinson bought a $125,000 plane with money supplied by Lehder, Robinson said.
He also said Lehder paid him $5,000 for a semi-automatic pistol with a foot-long silencer.
Lehder is charged in a 1981 indictment alleging conspiracy, importation of cocaine and operating a continuing criminal enterprise. Reed is charged with conspiracy.
Lehder is accused in a separate Miami indictment of being one of the leaders of the Medellin Cartel, said to be responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States.