Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Girlfriend Used Saudi Prince's Boeing 727 To Smuggle Cocaine

A Colombian man and the ex-girlfriend of a Saudi prince were each sentenced to more than 20 years in prison Monday for drug conspiracy, after prosecutors said they used the prince's Boeing 727 to transport two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to Paris.

Doris Mangeri Salazar, a Coral Gables real estate agent, was sentenced to 24 years and four months in state prison by U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez. Ivan Lopez Vanegas was sentenced to 23 years and four months, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

In May they were convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and ordered to pay $25,000 in fines.

Mangeri was convicted for acting as a broker in a transaction between Colombian drug traffickers and Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, a Swiss banker who married into the royal Saudi family. Mangeri had been the prince's girlfriend at the University of Miami.

Lopez, who was extradited from Colombia for the trial, also was the middle man between several Colombian drug lords and the prince, according to trial testimony. One of those traffickers, Juan Gabriel Usuga Norena, was a key witness for the prosecution.

Alan Soven, Lopez's attorney, said they will appeal the conviction because of at least six errors during the trial. He did not elaborate on the errors, but said it could take six months or more the appeal.

Telephone calls to Lopez's sentencing attorney and Salazar's attorney after hours were not returned.

Al-Shaalan and a Spaniard, Jose Maria Clemente, were also charged in the case. Spain has refused a U.S. extradition request for Clemente and Saudi Arabia -- which has no extradition treaty with the United States -- has been unwilling to produce al-Shaalan.

According to trial testimony, the Colombians were looking for new ways to smuggle cocaine when Lopez suggested to Usuga that they approach the Saudi prince, who could travel the world in a Boeing 727 outfitted with extra tanks for long flights. He could also travel under diplomatic immunity, thereby avoiding most customs inspections.

The 2-ton shipment, valued at $30 million, was transported in May 1999 from Colombia to Caracas, Venezuela, where it was loaded onto al-Shahaan's jet, according to testimony. The aircraft flew to Saudi Arabia and then on to Paris, where the cocaine was stored in a suburban stash house.

Some cocaine was sold to buyers in Italy and Spain and about a ton was seized by French and Spanish authorities.


Post a Comment

<< Home