South Americans Charged With Conspiracy Appear in Court With AM-Colombia
FREDERICTON, New Brunswick (AP) _ Five South Americans charged with trying to break two Colombians accused of cocaine smuggling out of prison appeared in court Monday amid tight security.
A charge read in court by provincial court judge James Harper said the conspiracy was hatched in Medellin, Colombia’s drug capital, between July 2 and Sept. 14. All five were also charged with weapons offenses and carrying forged passports.
The courthouse had the look of a building under siege, complete with riot police and sharpshooters on roofs. People entering the building had their bags searched.
The five suspects entered the courtroom under heavy guard and chained at the wrists and legs.
The two Colombians were arrested in April after a small airplane loaded with fuel and 1,100 pounds of cocaine worth $250 million landed at a remote airstrip near Fredericton. Police said they believed the plane flew directly to eastern Canada from Colombia.
Several other people were arrested in Toronto and Montreal in connection with the cocaine haul, police said.
Fredericton police issued a warrant for the arrest of Diego Caycedo, who they allege is the Medellin cartel’s chief organizer of cocaine exports to Canada. They asked Colombia to extradite him.
The nationalities of the five South Americans were not immediately clear; they originally were reported to be carrying Venezuelan passports but there was doubt about the authenticity of the documents. U.S. authorities said two of the five were believed to be Colombians.
Four were taken into custody in Edmundston on Wednesday when, after a tip, police seized an array of rifles, machine guns, ammunition and tear gas. The fifth man was arrested on Thursday in Saint John.
None of the men entered pleas. They were ordered held in a federal penitentiary until a bail hearing on Thursday.
The five were identified as Wilmer Ramon Zanabria, Tito Sanchez-Ruiz, Eulojio Manzano-Bustamante, Juan Carlos Hernandez and William Jose Rodriguez.