New York April - In a widening plot involving the West
African nation of Guinea-Bissau, the United States on Thursday charged its coup
leader with drug trafficking and seeking to sell arms to Colombian rebels.
Former army chief Antonio Indjai, the nation's top military
leader, was accused of four counts of conspiring to sell surface-to-air
missiles to FARC rebels to shoot down US patrol helicopters and of seeking to
import huge amounts of cocaine into the United States.
The charges were unveiled by Manhattan prosecutors less than
two weeks after similar trafficking accusations were brought against
Guinea-Bissau's former navy chief and four others arrested for an alleged
Two other co-conspirators have been caught in Colombia and
are awaiting extradition to the United States.
It was not immediately clear whether Indjai, now the eighth
person from Guinea-Bissau fingered by the Manhattan attorney, remained at large
or whether he was in US detention.
But the new slew of charges helped shed light on an
impoverished country, which international observers say has long been a
"From his position atop the Guinea-Bissau military,
Antonio Indjai conspired to use his power and authority to be a middleman and
his country to be a way-station for people he believed to be terrorists and
narco-traffickers," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a
His aim was to aid Colombia's FARC rebels to "store,
and ultimately transport narcotics to the United States, and procure
surface-to-air missiles and other military-grade hardware to be used against
United States troops".
"As with so many allegedly corrupt officials, he sold
himself and use of his country for a price," Bharara added.
The charges result from undercover sting operations that
began in August and culminated in dramatic arrests of some of the accused by US
agents on a boat in international waters off West Africa earlier in April.
Indjai, a former army chief of staff, led a coup in April
2012 that ousted the regime of former premier Carlos Gomes Junior.
He agreed in May last year to hand power to a civilian
transitional regime headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who had been
due to hold elections within 12 months. But that plan has now been postponed.
Indjai's "sprawling drug and terror regime threatened
the national security not only of his own country, but of countries across the
globe," added DEA administrator Michele Leonhart in a statement.
Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, a former chief of the navy, was
arrested earlier in April by US federal agents in international waters off West
Africa with several accomplices as he was allegedly about to receive a cocaine
The officer, described as a "drug kingpin" by the
United States for several years, was transferred to New York where he will
Na Tchuto - better known as Bubo - and two other defendants,
Papis Djeme and Tchamy Yala, appeared in a New York court on April 5.
They were ordered detained without bail for plotting to aid
cocaine shipments from Latin America reach markets in the United States and
Two others who also appeared before the judge were Manuel
Mamadi Mane and Saliu Sisse - both of whom have now been named as Indjai's
Two other co-plotters, Rafael Antonio Garavito-Garcia and
Gustavo Perez-Garcia, are awaiting extradition from Colombia to the United
States to face charges.
Guinea-Bissau, a country of just 1.5 million people, has
suffered chronic instability since independence from Portugal in 1974 due to
conflict between the army and state.