US says Suriname president's son wanted to host Hezbollah

US says Suriname president's son wanted to host Hezbollah
Suriname's President Desi Bouterse speaks during a working session at a Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) leaders summit in Paramaribo

WASHINGTON - A son of Suriname's president invited people he thought were from the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah to set up a base in his country to attack Americans in exchange for millions of US dollars, US prosecutors said on Friday.

Federal prosecutors who already were pursuing drug charges against Dino Bouterse, a son of President Desi Bouterse, filed the latest allegation in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The younger Bouterse's defence team said in a statement that he "is not, and never has been a supporter of any terrorist organisation and never intended to render aid to such an organisation."

Dino Bouterse held a senior counterterrorism post in the South American country, but was arrested in Panama in August and sent to New York to face charges of smuggling cocaine into the United States. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

According to a superseding indictment, US authorities recorded conversations Bouterse had with unnamed people and at least one US agent who posed as members of Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The US State Department has designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organisation since 1997, and US officials have sought to limit the group's operations in South America.

The US indictment said Bouterse was willing to allow Hezbollah fighters to have a permanent base in Suriname and agreed to an initial payment of $2 million. The indictment charges Bouterse with violating a US law against providing support to a foreign terrorist organisation.

Desi Bouterse is a former military dictator accused of human rights violations, such as the killings of 15 political opponents in 1982. He ruled from Suriname 1980 to 1987, and reclaimed power in 2010.

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