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Colombian Convicted for Bribery

March 11, 2000

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A military airport employee has been convicted of taking bribes to allow cocaine aboard a Colombian air force plane seized two years ago in Florida, the judge in the case said Friday.

The discovery of drugs aboard the air force C-130 cargo plane at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport in November, 1998, was an embarrassment for President Andres Pastrana. Pastrana had taken office three months earlier pledging to fight drug trafficking.

Libardo Bernal, an employee at the Bogota airport, was sentenced to nine years in prison in early January, but the conviction and sentence were not made public until Friday.

Bernal, 35, is the only Colombian convicted to date in the seizure of 1,639 pounds of cocaine and 13 pounds of heroin. He was given $23,000 for allowing the drugs on board.

Nine other people face charges, including eight low-ranking military members and a civilian, according to the judge.

In 1996, authorities in New York discovered heroin stashed in the nose and luggage compartment of the official airplane of then-President Ernesto Samper, who had arrived to address the United Nations.

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