US investigators: Saudi Prince Smuggled Drugs under diplomatic immunity
A Saudi prince smuggled a 4,400-pound load of cocaine from Venezuela to Paris on his personal aircraft under diplomatic immunity, United States drug investigators charged Wednesday.
Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al-Shaalan, a prince who prosecutors said is not in the line of succession to the Saudi throne, was indicted along with three others on two drug conspiracy counts, AP reported.
Officials said they don't know the prince's whereabouts and it is unclear, because of his diplomatic immunity, whether the prince could be prosecuted if he were found.
A woman at the Saudi embassy's information office in Washington after business hours Wednesday said diplomats were gone for the day and no one was available for comment.
Agents seized a Goya painting, three paintings by Colombia's Fernando Botero and a sculpture by Japan's Tsuguharu Foujita as part of the investigation. The DEA estimates the Goya and the Foujita works are worth at least $1 million each.
DEA agents found the alleged broker of the deal, Doris Mangeri Salazar, aged 44, hiding in a bedroom closet at her home Wednesday, a DEA report said, according to AP.
A six-page DEA report written to obtain a search warrant for her house briefly outlined the alleged drug deal based primarily on reports from Colombian drug smugglers who have been DEA informants.
Mangeri allegedly introduced the prince to the smugglers in the year 1998, and he agreed to fly the cocaine from Venezuela to the French capital on May 16, 1999, investigators said. Some of the cocaine was distributed and over 2,000 pounds were seized by French and Spanish authorities, the DEA said.
Meanwhile, another co-defendant, Jose Maria Clemente, arranged to repay a debt to one of the Colombian informants by giving him a Goya painting titled "Bandits Attacking a Coach" and a Foujita bust sculpted in 1924, officials said. The Boteros were found Wednesday at Mangeri's house.
During a court appearance on Wednesday, Mangeri gave her name and age but said nothing else. She was jailed pending a bond hearing Friday.
In the meantime, a fourth person, Ivan Lopez Vanegas, was named in an indictment as a conspirator but no details were provided. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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