OF JUSTICE HANDS DOWN DRUG
Attorney General John Ashcroft and DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson today announced the unsealing of a Federal indictment against seven defendants, three of whom are members of the 16th "front" of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia, otherwise known as the FARC. This marks the first time that members of a known terrorist organization have been indicted in the U.S. for their drug trafficking activities. The indictment charges all seven with conspiracy to import cocaine into the U.S. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the Bogota and Brasilia offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with the government of Colombia, as well as attorneys from the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.
"I think this sends the right message in the connection between this organization and their activities in support of drug trafficking," said Administrator Hutchinson. "I don't think you can underestimate the clarity of this message both in Colombia and the U.S."
According to the indictment, Tomas Molina Caracas, also known as "Negro Acacio," was the commander of the 16th front of the FARC. Between 1994 and 2001, Molina and other members of the 16th front controlled the town of Barranco Minas, a remote village in Eastern Colombia near the Venezuelan border. According to the indictment, Molina engaged in drug trafficking from Barranco Minas, collecting cocaine processed in laboratories up and down the Guaviare River and then distributing it to other cocaine traffickers. Nelson Barrera, another organizational member charged in the indictment, managed several of these laboratories.
By controlling this area, the FARC ensured both an abundant supply of cocaine to international traffickers, as well as a safe haven to conduct business. According to the indictment, three Brazilian drug traffickers, Luis Fernando Da Costa, Leonardo Dias Mendonca and another identified only as "Goiano," traveled to Barranco Minas to purchase cocaine from Molina. The cocaine was paid for with currency, weapons, and equipment.
"The indictment marks the convergence of two of the top priorities of this Department of Justice - the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of illegal drug use - in a single act of justice," Attorney General John Ashcroft stated. "Today's indictment charges the FARC and its members, not as revolutionaries or freedom fighters, but as drug traffickers whose operations finance terrorism." Some of those indicted could face prison sentences of up to life.
"It is our hope that this indictment will lead to the law being victorious over lawlessness in Colombia. We certainly believe that we will have the full cooperation of the Colombian government and law enforcement authorities when extradition is formally requested," added Administrator Hutchinson.