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Homeland Security

03 January 2005

Colombian Narco-Terrorist Extradited to United States

FARC member Palmera to face terrorism, narcotics charges

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda, a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was extradited from Colombia to Washington, on December 31, 2004, to face charges that include hostage-taking and narcotics trafficking, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Palmera, also known as Simon Trinidad, was named in two separate indictments, the Justice Department said in its December 31 press release.  FARC, the illegal armed group that Palmera belongs to, is designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.

The terrorism indictment, returned in May 2004, charges Palmera -- a member of the FARC's senior strategic planning group -- with conspiring to kidnap three Americans whose plane crashed in the Colombian jungle in 2003.  Palmera was one of the senior FARC leaders who presented the group's demands for the release of the American hostages.  He was also charged with the murder of two of the other occupants of the airplane, as well as with providing material support and resources to terrorists.

The narcotics indictment, returned in March 2004, charges Palmera and another FARC leader with controlling and directing the group’s drug-trafficking activities.  It also alleges that Palmera managed money that was used by the FARC to conduct trafficking activities, and it seeks the forfeiture of all FARC assets derived from the alleged violations.

"The case highlights the convergence of two of the top priorities of the Department of Justice: the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of the flow of illegal and deadly narcotics into this country," said Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Ashcroft thanked the Colombian government for its commitment to the apprehension of fugitives, noting that Colombia extradited 90 high-level narcotics traffickers, terrorists and other criminals to the United States in 2004.

Following is the text of the Justice Department press release:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Washington, D.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, December 31, 2004

HIGH-RANKING MEMBER OF COLOMBIAN FARC NARCO-TERRORIST ORGANIZATION EXTRADITED TO U.S. ON TERRORISM, DRUG CHARGES

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein of the District of Columbia, FBI Director Robert Mueller and DEA Administrator Karen Tandy announced today that a high-ranking member of the designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, has been extradited to the United States to face terrorism and drug charges.

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda, a/k/a Simon Trinidad, arrived from Colombia earlier today in the Washington metropolitan area.  He had an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge John Facciola at U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

Trinidad was named in two separate indictments returned by grand juries in Washington, D.C., unsealed today, charging him with narcotics trafficking, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 952, 959 and 963, and hostage taking and providing material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 1203A and 2339A.

Trinidad allegedly served in the "Estado Mayor Central," the senior strategic planning group of the FARC, a drug-trafficking organization which has also been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department since 1997.

The terrorism indictment, returned May 13, 2004, charges Trinidad with conspiring with the FARC and others to take hostage Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, three Americans who were kidnapped in February 2003 when their U.S. airplane crashed in the Colombian jungle.  The three hostages remain in FARC custody today.  The indictment charges that the FARC demanded the government of Colombia carve out of its sovereign territory a new demilitarized zone, which would be used as a new base of operations for the FARC -- as well as the release of hundreds of FARC terrorists currently being held by the Colombian government -- as a condition for the release of the three American hostages.  The indictment charges that Trinidad was named in an April 27, 2003, FARC communique as one of three senior commanders to represent the FARC in presenting its demands for release of hostages held by the terrorist organization, including the three Americans.  The indictment further alleges that as part of the hostage-taking conspiracy, the FARC and its conspirators murdered two other occupants of the airplane, American citizen Thomas Janis and Colombian national Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz.

The indictment also charges Trinidad with providing material support and resources to terrorists, namely FARC, knowing and intending that his support would be used in preparation for or in carrying out the hostage-taking conspiracy.

The narcotics indictment, returned by a federal grand jury on March 2, 2004, charges that Trinidad and another high-level member of the FARC, Jorge Briceno Suarez, a/k/a Mono Jojoy, controlled and directed FARC drug-trafficking activities by "issuing orders regarding the acquisition, transportation and sale of cocaine by various fronts of the FARC and the movement of drug money.  The indictment alleges that Trinidad managed and controlled money for the FARC that was used by the organization to conduct cocaine trafficking activities.  The indictment alleges that Trinidad announced to local coca growers the price the FARC would pay them for each kilogram of cocaine base, and advised them that the quality of their cocaine base was "inferior" and "needed to be improved."  The indictment further alleges that Trinidad met with and received money from or supplied money to other FARC drug traffickers, that he attended drug-trafficking meetings, and that he spoke of sending cocaine to the United States.

The narcotics indictment seeks the forfeiture of all FARC assets derived from the alleged violations, and the terrorism indictment seeks forfeiture of all FARC assets, foreign and domestic, as provided in the USA PATRIOT Act.

"The Trinidad case highlights the convergence of two of the top priorities of the Department of Justice: the prevention of terrorism and the reduction of the flow of illegal and deadly narcotics into this country," said Attorney General John Ashcroft.  "I thank Colombian President Uribe for his contribution and commitment to the apprehension of fugitives who harm the United States - a commitment demonstrated by the fact that Colombia has extradited 90 high-level narcotics traffickers, terrorists and other criminals to the United States this year alone."

"The FARC is a dangerous organization of terrorists, drug traffickers, kidnappers and murderers," said Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray.  "Our indictments and extradition requests should send a clear message to all who participate in or support their deplorable and criminal acts: We will work with other nations to see that you are brought to justice in a U.S. court of law."

U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein stated, "Today's announcement demonstrates our determination to prosecute all involved in the February 2003 murder and kidnapping of American citizens and their Colombian companion.  Our agents and prosecutors will not rest until justice is done, in honor of the two victims who were murdered and on behalf of those who remain in FARC custody today."

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said, "Today's extradition demonstrates that the U.S. government, along with our international law enforcement partners, will pursue terrorists and terrorist groups in whatever criminal guise they take, be it narco-terrorists, extortionists or kidnappers."

"Simon Trinidad's extradition is a victory for the people of Colombia and America," said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy.  "He is a high-ranking operative of the FARC who allegedly terrorized his fellow citizens and directed the production, transportation and sale of cocaine into the United States as well as the movement of drug money.  Today, we answer Trinidad's crime and violence with the only consequence traffickers fear: extradition to the United States."

The FARC has been charged with terrorism and drug-related crimes in several previous indictments.  The indictments allege that the FARC is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, operating in and from Colombia, that is trying to overthrow the Colombian government by force.  The FARC seeks to oppose by force, violence and other criminal activity the nations, governments and individuals who do not share its views.  Since at least the early 1960s, the FARC has been violently anti-American and has worked against the interests of the United States, saying in March 1998 that all U.S. officials are legitimate military targets.  In addition to narcotics trafficking, the FARC targets through extortion, kidnapping and murder U.S. citizens who work in, visit or do business in Colombia and neighboring countries.

The terrorism investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Miami Field Office and is being prosecuted by the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia.  The narcotics investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, working with the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Criminal Division. This case is being prosecuted by NDDS and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Trinidad's extradition was assisted by the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs.

The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations.  All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless convicted in a court of law.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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