U.S. Denies Surinamese Army Leader Has Immunity in Drug Case
MIAMI (AP) _ A Surinamese army leader accused of offering his South American nation as a way station for drug traffickers is not entitled to diplomatic immunity, the State Department says.
Capt. Etienne Boerenveen, 28, considered close to Suriname’s leader Commander Desi Bouterese, was arrested March 24 after Drug Enforcement Administration agents filmed him offering to protect smugglers for $1 million a trip.
In court Friday, defense attorney Philip Gerson presented documents from Surinamese officials that said Boerenveen was in Miami on government business when he was arrested.
A statement by the Surinamese Embassy in Washington promised cooperation but said Boerenveen was entitled to diplomatic immunity.
State Department spokesman Gregory Lagana said the United States did not accept Boerenveen’s claim of immunity.
Indicted with Boerenveen are Ricardo Heymans of Miami, manager of the government-owned Suriname Airlines, and his father, Cilvion Heymans, who lives in Amsterdam and claims citizenship in both Suriname and the Netherlands.
The three men were arrested as they left a yacht docked at a Biscayne Bay pier after a meeting with DEA agents.
Boerenveen and the Heymans were charged with conspiracy to import and distribute drugs, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence and $100,000 penalty. They also were charged with violations of the Travel Act, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The case was assigned Friday to U.S. District Judge Sidney Aronovitz. No trial date was set, and they were held without bond.
Suriname, a country the size of Georgia on the northeast coast of South America, has a population of 400,000 people.
Boerenveen is one of five top officers in the Surinamese army and is considered close to Bouterese, who as an army sergeant led a coup in 1980 and only recently began turning the country back to civilian rule.