AP : Published: November 17, 1987 NEW YORK TIMES ORIGINAL SOURCE
Carlos Lehder Rivas dreamed of buying his own nation and becoming the ”king of cocaine transportation,” a Federal prosecutor said today at the opening of the Colombian’s trial on drug-smuggling charges.
Mr. Lehder used violence and bribed Prime Minister Lynden Pindling of the Bahamas as he worked toward his goal, United States Attorney Robert Merkle said.
Mr. Lehder, 38 years old, is charged in a 1981 indictment with smuggling 3.3 tons of cocaine from Colombia to Normans Cay in the Bahamas and then to airports in Georgia and north Florida in 1979 and 1980. Accused of Bribing Official
Mr. Merkle said Mr. Lehder paid substantial sums to Prime Minister Pindling ”to preserve the integrity of the continuing criminal enterprise.”
Bill Kalis, a spokesman for the Bahamian government, said today,”We’re not going to comment during the trial on any allegations that come up.”
He said a Royal Commission of Inquiry which had issued a report on such accusations concluded after months of hearings in 1984 that it lacked credible evidence to tie the Prime Minister directly to any bribes. Prime Minister Pindling, the leader of the Bahamas since 1967, was elected to another five-year term in June.
The defense was scheduled to give its opening statement Tuesday.
The list of potential witnesses for the trial includes 213 for the Government, 193 for Mr. Lehder and 27 for Jack Reed, a co-defendant.
Mr. Lehder is charged with conspiracy, cocaine importation, operating a continuing criminal enterprise and eight counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Mr. Reed, 57, of San Pedro, Calif., who was arrested at his coconut farm in Panama, is charged with conspiracy. Mr. Lehder is accused in a separate Federal indictment in Miami of being one of the leaders of a violent organization, the Medellin Cartel, which investigators say is responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. It is not known when and if that case will go to trial. ‘Buy His Own Island Nation’
”Lehder’s plan was to develop sufficient income from the sale of cocaine to literally buy his own island nation, a haven from international drug laws,” Mr. Merkle said in his opening statement.
”Carlos Lehder pursued a singular dream, a singular vision, to be the king of cocaine transportation,” he told the jurors.
While in a Danbury, Conn., Federal prison in 1974 serving a two-year marijuana smuggling sentence, Mr. Lehder met George Jung, who was in prison on marijuana distribution charges, the prosecutor said.
Mr. Lehder explained to Mr. Jung that he had access to unlimited supplies of cocaine but had no United States distribution network, Mr. Merkle said.
”Lehder saw cocaine as the wave of the future in the United States,” he said Mr. Jung would testify. ”A product that created and captured its users. ‘Work His Will on Other People’
”Evidence will show Lehder is a man of considerable intellect. Evidence will show Lehder is a man of considerable charm who is able to work his will on other people.”
Mr. Lehder’s first cocaine shipments into the United States were carried by women, hidden in the linings of their suitcases, Mr. Merkle said.
At the time, he said, Mr. Lehder was able to buy cocaine in Colombia for $2,000 to $5,000 a kilogram and sell it in the United States for up to $45,000.
”It was worth more than its weight in gold,” Mr.Merkle said.
He said Mr. Lehder made contacts in California, Massachusetts and Florida to begin setting up his distribution network, and met Barry Kane, a lawyer and pilot in Massachusetts.
Mr. Kane advised Mr. Lehder that the best route to smuggle cocaine was through the Bahamas, the prosecutor said. Because of the large amount of private aircraft traffic from the United States, it would be difficult to track a small plane carrying in cocaine, he said.