NarcoNews: DEA Prostitute Scandal Isn’t Agency’s Only Trick

Drug-War Agency’s Latin America Operations Tarnished by a Pattern of Unaddressed Corruption Allegations

Bill Conroy

The current scandal over Colombian narco-traffickers paying prostitutes to provide sex services to DEA agents has an even deeper footprint in the agency than the current head of the DEA has conceded, court records stemming from past DEA operations reveal.

A March report by the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office that first revealed the allegations publicly indicates the sex parties with DEA agents and prostitutes in Colombia played out between 2005 and 2008. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart wasn’t made aware of those activities until around 2012, according to the IG report.

“This has been a very difficult week for DEA, with members of Congress and the media asking tough questions and sharing our outrage about the disgraceful conduct of a few individuals several years ago,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart states in an email sent to employees earlier this month.“This employee misconduct has upset me for many reasons, but especially because it calls into question the incredible reputation DEA has built over more than 40 years.”

The House Oversight Committee, which is investigating the charges, recently released a report based on DEA documents that indicates some of the illicit activities in Colombia actually date back to 2001 but involved only a handful of agents.

Court records reviewed by Narco News, however, show DEA agents in Latin America were hooking up with prostitutes as far back as the late 1990s as part of a much broader pattern of alleged corruption involving DEA’s operations in Colombia.

A 2002 internal DEA report filed as an exhibit in a DEA agent’s wrongful termination lawsuit includes claims that a narco-trafficker and money launder turned DEA informant “prepaid the services of prostitutes” for as many as five DEA agents in Panama in the late 1990s. Those agents were assisting an operation that was making use of one of the more interesting characters in the shadows of the drug war.

That individual, Baruch Vega, served as a “foreign intelligence source” for the CIA, litigation documents reveal, while also doing work for the DEA and FBI in Latin America. As part of his work for the DEA in the late 1990s, Vega played the role of a broker of sorts charged with convincing key narco-trafficking figures in Colombia to negotiate favorable plea deals with the US government, court records reveal. Some of those narco-traffickers then went on to serve as cooperating sources for U.S. agencies, according to Vega.

Many of the negotiations with the Colombian narco-traffickers took place in Panama with DEA agents present, Vega claims. He described the DEA agents’ liaisons with prostitutes as a “very normal” part of the process.

“We would go for dinner with these narco-traffickers to negotiate their surrender to DEA, and after they would say, ‘Lets invite some girls,” Vega recounted in a recent interview with Narco News. “Then everyone would go out somewhere and the narco-traffickers would hire prostitutes to mingle with the agents, and the narco-traffickers would pay for it. This happened on several occasions in Panama, and in Colombia as well.”

Vega said the prostitutes didn’t know their clients were DEA agents, “but it’s possible when the narco-traffickers hired the girls, they told them they were agents.” He added that the ironic part of the arrangement was that the narco-traffickers would be “dating beautiful models” while the DEA agents would “be with the prostitutes.”

The 2002 DEA internal report is a small puzzle piece in a much larger web of intrigue and alleged corruption involving DEA’s operations in Colombia. Another piece of the puzzle surfaced in a leaked memo drafted in 2004 by a DOJ attorney named Thomas Kent. In that memo, Kent referred to DEA operations carried out in Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He alleged that DEA agents in Bogota were on the payroll of narco-traffickers, engaging in money laundering for Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary groups, and conspiring to murder their own informants to protect their corrupt schemes.

Mike Levine, a former deep undercover DEA agent who now serves as an expert court witness, said the rot inside DEA is far deeper than the current “sexcapade” scandal. In a legal case involving Colombian narco-traffickers as DEA targets that Levine recently investigated as an expert witness, he said he “documented something like $20 million in funds stolen by DEA and/or task force agents.” …

You can read the complete investigative report here @ NarcoNews

De-Manufacturing Consent: Drugs & Terror: U.S. Imperialism in Latin America

Guillermo Jimenez Presents Dr. Oliver Villar

On this edition of De-Manufacturing Consent: Guillermo is joined by author of the book, Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia, Dr. Oliver Villar. Guillermo and Dr. Villar discuss the global drug trade within the context of U.S. imperialistic ambitions around the world, using Colombia and its ongoing civil war as a specific case study. What is a "narco-state"? Who are the real "narco-terrorists"? What explains the sudden rise and dramatic falls of kingpin front-men like Pablo Escobar? We explore the answers to these questions, and much, much more.

Listen to the Preview Clip Here

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NATO: Network Advancing Thugs Operations?

Just Asking

Last week Jeremy Scahill covered a very interesting story over at his blog titled ‘Paramilitary Thug with Long History with Top US Democrats Arrested for War Crimes.’ The story is about Agim Ceku who commanded the ethnic cleansing operations in Yugoslavia in 90s, and then headed KLA, an organization labeled ‘terrorist’ by the US government. I briefly covered the issues related to KLA and it’s tainted and biased coverage by the US MSM in ‘The Forbidden Apple of the US Press, and talked about their burial of the dark side of KLA and our government’s partnership with them as just another example of our hypocrisy-ridden foreign policy.

Back to Scahill’s nicely-done piece, and a summary of the case provided in the introduction paragraph:

    “A US-trained paramilitary figure from the Balkans with a lengthy history with leading Clinton-era Democrats, including some now in the Obama administration, has been arrestedin Europe on an Interpol warrant for war crimes. Agim Ceku, an Albanian from Kosovo, is a former Croatian Army General who was trained by the private US security firm Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) during the Clinton Administration. Ceku, backed by the US, would go on to become the “prime minister” of Kosovo despite the fact that he was responsible for some of the worst acts of “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and was the leader of a paramilitary organization with drug trade ties, which Clinton’s top envoy to Kosovo called a “terrorist” organization.”

For the purpose of my coverage please put your own emphasis on “…the leader of a paramilitary organization with drug trade ties.” Now a bit more on Ceku as the darling of the US government and its extension, NATO:

    “Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, worked with Ceku when Clark led the bombing of Kosovo. “[Ceku] could have been in anybody’s army and done well,” saidClark in 2007.”

And two important excerpts for my purposes with emphasis added:

    “Despite US intelligence that indicatedthat the KLA was a terrorist organization with ties to narco-trafficking and networks connected to Osama bin Laden, the Clinton Administration embraced the organization as its proxy armed force on the ground in Kosovo in 1998-1999.”

    “This is not the first time Ceku has been arrested. In 2003, he was detained in an airport in Slovenia and in 2004 at the airport in Budapest. In May 2009, he was deported from Columbia.”

Since the story’s main focus is on Ceku’s role in ethnic cleansing and our shameful diplomatic relations - based on even more shameful objectives and foreign policy, there is no explanation for Ceku’s trip to and stay in Colombia. We already know he is connected to Narco-Trafficking, and we know the importance of the Balkan Route to the heroin industry. But what the hell was Ceku doing in Colombia? Is there some sort of a barter system, heroin-for cocaine and vice versa within the industry? Again, keep this thought for what’s to follow. Reported as an update by Scahill, interestingly but expectedly, due to “international intervention” Ceku was ordered released the next day, on Thursday, June 25.

Hmmmm, international intervention? That makes it NATO-US.

I do follow Scahill’s reports and editorial pieces regularly, and he is one of very few journalists out there whom I respect. This piece got my attention especially, and brought back memories of another story I followed personally for over a year: Jan Willem Matser, another NATO Thug.

Jan Willem Matser, a Dutch Lieutenant Colonel in Staff to NATO Secretary General George Robertson in charge of Eastern Europe, whose job gave him access to classified NATO material, was arrested on February 2003 in Wemmel, Belgium, and charged with trying to launder at least $200 million for an international drug cartel from his office at the alliance’s HQ in Brussels. Other criminals involved in Matser’s case were Mohammed Kadem, a Moroccan, and Pietro Fedino, a wealthy Sicilian with a previous conviction for cocaine smuggling.

Here is some background as reported by Times UK :

    “According to documents seen by The Sunday Times, the investigation began last September after customs police at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam received a tip-off about a FedEx parcel sent from Colombia [Emphasis Added] to an address in the Netherlands. The parcel was found to contain a receipt for a £120m deposit at a bank in Bogotá [Emphasis Added] and a fake document authorising the transfer of the same amount of money to Tender SA, a company registered in the Romanian town of Timisoara. The company is not suspected of any wrongdoing.”

And here some more background on the investigations from the same report by Times UK:

    “The information was passed to a police unit working for the Dutch finance ministry that specializes in combating organised crime. The package was fitted with a bug and resealed. It was allegedly received by Fedino, who is suspected by the Dutch police of being an Italian mafia boss. Five agents monitored him around the clock and listened to his telephone calls. It was this surveillance that led police to Matser. In a call taped on September 7, a man later identified as Matser said he was “going to be leaving NATO in half an hour”.”

And more,

    “In a further conversation, on December 27, Matser allegedly said: “I’ll make false documents for the entire transaction . . . It’s no problem; my computer’s very patient and I can even recreate the official notary seals from old documents.” Matser also held several meetings with his alleged accomplices. One meeting with Kadem on Christmas Eve at the Airport hotel in Rotterdam was filmed by the surveillance team. Kadem was already the focus of four international drug investigations and had been sought by Interpol since 1996.”Investigators believe Matser helped to set up the scheme when Nato sent him to Romania last year to instruct central European intelligence chiefs on how to raise standards.”

Here comes another very interesting connection:

    “Matser — an assistant to Chris Donnelly, Robertson’s special adviser for central and eastern Europe — is believed to have used his contacts in Romania’s domestic secret service to arrange meetings with senior members of the government. He is thought to have told them of plans to launch a fund, backed by wealthy individuals and middle-ranking investors that would invest £1.8 billion in Romania. This was to begin with the purchase of Petrom, oil refining company, and Libra Bank [Emphasis Added]”

Interestingly Dick Cheney’s Halliburton happened to be another contender for control of Romania’s Petrom. Here is the ‘Interesting’ Connection:

    “Matser and Tender are further connected by their failed attempt to gain control of PETROM National Society (SNP), a soon-to-be privatized Romanian oil-company, which produces 10% of the Romanian GDP. Tender, Matser and Halliburton formed a consortium in an effort to gain controlling stakes - 51% estimated to be worth approx. US$ 1 billion. A few days following the announcement of this trio's interest, Matser was arrested. Subsequently, Romania's Economy Ministry has made it known that the consortium had not met its criteria and was no longer being considered.”

Sanders Research has one of the very few analyses of Matser’s case, here are a few excerpts:

    “Matser had a suspiciously large amount of money to invest, as the Dutch police found out. They discovered in Matser’s apartment papers from a Romanian holding company, Tender SA, owned by the tycoon Ovidiu Tender. Matser said that he had frequently carried out such money transfers with Tender, whom he had met at a NATO-related conference in the Romanian mountain resort of Sinaia in April 2002, [2] and who is often described as being “close” to the Romanian president, Ion Iliescu. Tender was interviewed by the Dutch investigators, and he told them that he had attended a meeting between Matser and the Romanian prime minister, Adrian Nastase, at which Matser had announced that he had no less than $2 – 3 billion to invest. In the latter half of 2002, Matser nearly concluded the purchase of a Libra Bank in Romania. [3] And it seems that he may have been interested in using his money to buy a stake in the Romanian oil giant, Petrom, in which Tender also has an interest. (Oddly enough, another contender for control of Romania’s petro-chemical industry was none other than Hallburton, the company which used to be headed by Vice-President Dick Cheney[Emphasis Added].”

Do you want to get a good chuckle? Here is how Matser tried to explain the source of his fortune:

    “Matser claimed that he had such gigantic sums at his disposal because he ran a sort of freelance brokerage business in the short-term money markets. He claimed that he operated on a 40% commission for companies seeking short-term loans, and that with this business he had amassed a fortune which he wanted to invest. Specialists consulted during the trial said this was simply impossible. But because he was friendly with numerous notorious criminals, his activities started to arouse suspicion, in particular that he was involved in laundering money for drug dealers. Although Matser was in fact acquitted of complicity in organised crime, his two co-defendants had previous convictions for drug dealing and fraud. And he was friendly with Mohammed Kadem, a Moroccan who is alleged to be one of the biggest drug dealers in the Netherlands.”

And here is how NATO tried to wiggle its way out of this (well, as you will see later, in the end it did!):

    “What is clear is that Matser not only had connections with numerous very powerful criminals – the phone number of his co-defendant, Pietro Fedino, the notorious Italian Mafioso [5], was in his mobile – but also that he had astonishingly high-level political contacts too. On his arrest and conviction, NATO insisted that he was merely a junior employee of the association, and thus tried to dissociate itself from his conviction. But if he was so junior, how did he manage to hold meetings with the Romanian prime minister, or to meet the most powerful men in the country? And how was it that he saw Lord Robertson, Secretary-General of the Atlantic Alliance, nearly every day? Matser even used to use the headed paper of the Secretary-General for his own personal notes.”

NATO or its defendants never answered the following question that arose from the Matser Case, I guess they didn’t have to; after all, they are ‘NATO’:

    “The silence has been deafening which has greeted the revelation that NATO officials consort with some of the biggest gangsters in organised crime. Yet it is obvious what questions Matser’s convictions throws up. What did Matser’s bosses at NATO, including the Secretary-General, know about his criminal activities? How can a NATO official, with all the security controls which such a post implies, entertain friendship and business contacts with well-known gangsters and criminals? How can he amass such stupendous sums of money while holding down a full-time office job?”

Guess what? As with Scahill’s Agim Ceku, despite serious charges supported by tons of evidence Matser was mysteriously acquitted.

    “A Dutch court on 27 January acquitted former NATO official Jan Willem Matser of charges he attempted to launder $200 million by channeling money from a Colombian bank account to Belgium via Romania, AP and AFP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2004). The judge said prosecutors had failed to support the money-laundering charges. Matser was found guilty of forgery and fraud on two other accounts and was sentenced to 14 months in prison, but was ordered released because he has already served two-thirds of the sentence in pretrial detention. He was given three years' probation.”

No ‘real’ explanation has ever been provided for his acquittal. Matser was convicted of forgery but acquitted of other charges, including belonging to a criminal organization. Yap, that’s the kind of immunity you get if you are a NATO man directly or indirectly. The organization seems to work like a network set up to advance large scale criminal operations.

And finally, even more interestingly, this story which became the front page news for days, even weeks, in Dutch and Romanian media, received ‘0,’ that is ‘zero,’ as in ‘zilch’ coverage in the USA media. Go check it for yourself. Enter Matser’s name in any news search engine of your choice and wait for the results. Seriously, go and do it. You’ll see 3 or 4 pieces in English, in UK papers, and NOTHING here in the United States of America. I don’t have to wonder why. Do you?

Cartoon by Paul Jamiol