1 September – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, announced today the sentencings of defendants Doris Mangeri Salazar and Ivan Lopez Vanegas. Salazar and Vanegas were sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez to terms of 292 and 280 months’ imprisonment, respectively, following their convictions on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846. In addition, each defendant was ordered to pay $25,000 in fines.
Salazar and Vanegas were convicted in May, 2005, after an eight-week trial. According to the testimony at trial, Salazar acted as a broker in a 2,000-kilogram drug transaction between Colombian drug traffickers and Nayef Bin Sultan Bin Fawwaz al-Shaalan, a Prince in the Saudi Arabian royal family who is not in direct accession to the throne. In early to mid-1998, one of the Colombian drug traffickers was contacted by co-defendant Lopez Vanegas regarding brokering a drug deal between Colombian drug traffickers, who were in need of ways in which to transport cocaine, and Al-Shaalan, who had the ability to transport large quantities of cocaine to any place in the world under the cover of diplomatic immunity.
After the initial discussion, many meetings were held in Miami, as well as Marbella, Spain; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Aruba between the co-conspirators to discuss, negotiate and coordinate the drug smuggling venture. In September, 1998, in Marbella, Spain, Al-Shaalan was introduced by Salazar to the Colombian drug traffickers. After this meeting, one of the co-conspirators traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, along with co-defendant Jose Maria Clemente and Al-Shaalan to tour Kanz Bank, a Swiss financial institution specializing in Islamic banking and owned by Al-Shaalan.
In December 1998, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, all four defendants and the Colombian drug traffickers were taken by Al-Shaalan to an encampment in the desert. There, the defendants and the co-conspirators discussed the details of a drug transportation scheme. Specifically, the Colombian drug traffickers agreed to “front” all of the cocaine and deliver the cocaine to Al-Shaalan in Caracas, Venezuela. Al-Shaalan would then transport the cocaine to Paris, France, aboard his private jet. Once in Paris, the Colombian drug traffickers would regain possession of the cocaine. After sale of the cocaine, valued at over $30 million dollars, Al-Shaalan would take half of the profits in United States Currency as payment for the transportation of the cocaine. Lopez Vanegas and Salazar were to be paid a brokerage fee.
In February 1999, a meeting was held in Aruba that all defendants attended as well as one of the Colombian drug traffickers. During the meeting, plans were finalized to deliver in May, 1999, approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine to Al-Shaalan’s jet in Caracas, Venezuela, so that it could be flown to Paris.
In May, 1999, the Colombian drug traffickers purchased the 2,000 kilograms of cocaine which were transported to a warehouse in Venezuela. One of the drug traffickers met with Al-Shaalan at the Intercontinental Hotel in Caracas to coordinate the delivery of the cocaine to Al-Shaalan’s jet. After the cocaine was loaded into the jet, it took off to Paris, France, via Saudi Arabia. On May 16, 1999, Al-Shaalan’s jet arrived at the Bourget airport in Paris. Once in Paris, the cocaine was off-loaded and taken to a “stash house” in a suburb of Paris, where it was counted and stored for distribution. Lopez Vanegas coordinated the sale of some of the cocaine to buyers in Italy and Spain. While being transported to Spain, Spanish authorities seized approximately 190 kilograms. On July 5, 1999, French authorities seized an additional 804 kilograms of cocaine from the Paris stash house.
After these seizures, a dispute arose between the co-conspirator as to whom was responsible for law enforcement’s seizure of the cocaine and loss of profits resulting from the seizures. Before the dispute could be resolved, however, the Colombian drug traffickers were arrested in early 2000 and began cooperating with the United States government. Thereafter, there were numerous recorded telephone conversations and/or meetings with Vanegas.
On July 17, 2002, Salazar was arrested by Drug Enforcement Agents at her residence in Coral Gables, Florida. Later that day, two search warrants were executed on her residence and two safes on the premises were among the items searched. From the locked safes, DEA agents seized photographs of all the defendants in the desert, next to Humvees, camels, horses and tents, which corroborated the testimony given by a cooperating witness. The government noted that photographs found Salazar’s safe were the same photographs provided to the government by the cooperating witnesses. DEA agents also seized from Salazar’s residence two large portraits of Al-Shaalan and five of her passports – four Colombian and one from the United States – evidencing Salazar’s trips to Spain, Saudi Arabia and Aruba.
United States Attorney Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jacqueline Arango and Kimberly A. Selmore.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/ .