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Suriname leader's son's 'right hand' gets prison in U.S. drug case

By Nate Raymond

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Surinamese man convicted of acting as the "right-hand man" to the son of the country's president during a scheme to send large amounts of cocaine to the United States was sentenced on Tuesday to 11-1/4 years in a U.S. prison.

Edmund Muntslag, who was arrested after a U.S. sting operation targeting Dino Bouterse, Suriname President Desi Bouterse's son, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life after a federal jury found Muntslag, 33, guilty in March of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

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His conviction came a year after Dino Bouterse, 43, was sentenced to 16-1/4 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he tried to offer a home base to the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah in the South American country.

A lawyer for Muntslag did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said that in 2013, Bouterse and Muntslag sought to help people claiming to be Mexican drug cartel members, who were actually U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informants, send millions of dollars worth of cocaine to the United States.

At the time, Bouterse was the head of a counter-terrorism unit in Suriname, and described Muntslag as his "right hand," prosecutors said.

In July 2013, Muntslag shipped a test load of 10 kg (22 lb) of cocaine by a commercial flight from Suriname to Trinidad, understanding the drugs would be transported to New York for sale, prosecutors said.

Bouterse had meanwhile agreed with the purported cartel members to discuss a weapons deal with Hezbollah, prosecutors said.

During a meeting in Greece with an undercover agent and DEA source posing as Hezbollah members, Bouterse agreed to help the group establish a base in Suriname, located north of Brazil, in exchange for $2 million, prosecutors said.

Bouterse was arrested in August 2013 in Panama, where he was discussing the purported Hezbollah deal.

Muntslag was arrested days later in Trinidad, where he was waiting to take an undercover DEA agent posing as a Hezbollah agent to Suriname, prosecutors said. He was extradited in August 2015.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)