A former chief of the navy in Guinea-Bissau in western Africa appeared in a New York City courtroom on Friday to face charges regarding cocaine trafficking, according to a drug enforcement official, Ronald Kubisty.
Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was flown to New York City after he was detained while traveling on a yacht in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
The 62-year-old Adm. Na Tchuto is known to U.S. law enforcement as a narcotics kingpin in Guinea-Bissau’s huge drug trade. The small, former-Portuguese colony is a known point of entry and departure for drug-smuggling, organized-crime organizations.
According to Inspector Ron Kubisty, cocaine is smuggled into Guinea-Bissau from Colombia, or other Latin American countries, and then drug shipments are rerouted to European countries as well as the United States.
The federal indictment against Adm. Na Tchuto and two other defendants alleges that they were middlemen in a huge drug-smuggling operation originating in Latin America.
It also alleges they all worked together to receive tons of cocaine transported by ships from South America to Guinea-Bissau, and then they stored and protected the cocaine in Guinea-Bissau before its eventual journey to other locations in Europe, including the American mainland.
Adm. Na Tchuto and four other Guinea-Bissau nationals were taken into custody aboard a yacht in international waters in the eastern Atlantic Ocean near the Cape Verde Islands.
The suspects were arrested by U.S. federal drug agents when the admiral’s boat was observed traveling while flying a Panama flag.
A booming cocaine trade has turned Guinea-Bissau into what U.S. law enforcement officials claim is a narco-state with key members of the government involved in the lucrative drug trade.