On narco-terrorist Carlos Lehder
Carlos Lehder, Colombian/German neo-nazi & narco-terrorist
Crimes: Drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping. Biggest cocaine kingpin ever to be jailed by the U.S. government. Convicted to a life sentence plus 135 years in prison with no possibility of parole (later released).
Status: Has been moved out from the federal maximum-security prison at Marion, III., and given a new identity under the Federal Witness Protection Program, conceivably Lehder could already be walking the streets a free man. Eight members of his immediate family have been moved from Colombia, and are being given permanent resident status in the U.S. with all expenses paid for by the government. (Currently free in Europe.)
Payment by the U.S.: Sentence reduction, freedom in Germany. Lehder will probably not pay the $98 million in taxes he owes the U.S., plus he gets to keep at least $8 million in drug profits.
Manuel Noriega writes
The federal prosecutors in Miami thought their method of operation against me was so successful that they tried the same thing against Cuba, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the anti-Castro exile community in Miami. So why not use Carlos Lehder, the pathological liar, who admitted he never met me or Raul Castro, and who is in jail for life and is called by some prosecutors dangerous, unreliable? Why not use him as the heart of your case against me and Raul Castro?
Associated Press writes
Lehder’s testimony appeared to contradict that of several earlier witnesses.
Lehder never met Noriega but said he knew in detail of his relationship with the Medellin drug cartel because he sat in on regular meetings of the group’s leadership.
He said Noriega met in 1981 with a cartel-connected priest and attorney to negotiate the release of Marta Ochoa, sister of the group’s Ochoa brothers, who had been kidnapped by guerrillas. Two previous witnesses who conducted the negotiations said Noriega never attended.
Lehder also said Noriega sent his friend Floyd Carlton to get a job flying drugs for the cartel in 1982, but Carlton testified earlier that it was the cartel that approached him.
Lehder testified as well that drugs were flown directly to Panama’s two major airports, but Carlton and other cartel pilots have said the flights went to remote rural airstrips.
Lehder also claimed he was in charge of all drug shipments into Panama, although drug pilots who testified previously said they reported to other cartel figures, including Pablo Escobar.
Juan David Ochoa, leader of the Medellin cartel says
When you went to Panama, was Noriega helping to protect you? What was Noriega’s involvement with the narcotrafficking?
No, at no moment did he protect us. Noriega didn’t even know that we were there. As far as I know, he had nothing to do with the drug trade.
Carlos Lehder himself, one of your associates, claimed and helped convict Manuel Noriega of drug crimes.
There’s a saying here that if any of us have problems with the United States, Noriega is the best lawyer you could have, because if you declare against Noriega, you’re free. Perhaps Carlos Lehder didn’t have another option but to do that. . . .
Andrea Oliviera writes
President Bush’s alliance with the cocaine-trafficking Medellin Cartel, evidence of which has remained in the shadows of the Iran-Contra scandal for years, has now exploded onto the public scene. In a deal which has revolted even some of the more hard-bitten elements of the corrupt U.S. justice system, the federal prosecution in the Miami trial of Manuel Antonio Noriega has offered as yet unspecified terms of leniency to cartel founder Carlos Lehder Rivas.
In exchange, Lehder who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. without parole is to give testimony designed to bolster the prosecution’s blundering case against Noriega, the first Ibero-American leader to launch a real war on drugs, who said “no” to Panamanian support for the Reagan-Bush Contra policy, and who insisted on full U. S. compliance with the U. S. -Panama Canal Treaties.
Peter Eisner writes
Carlos Lehder, a Colombian drug dealer condemned by other U.S. prosecutors as a liar, was brought in to testify against Noriega, even though he had never met him.
Attorney Richard Gregorie was appalled that Lehder should be brought; and Robert Merkle, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted Lehder in Tampa, was livid when he heard a deal had been struck. “This man is an enemy of the United States; he is an unrepentant, pathological liar.”
Lehder won a secret deal with the government in which he was withdrawn from the maximum-security Marion Federal Penitentiary, along with a vague promise that he might be able to get out of his life sentence.
In 1995, Lehder wrote a letter to Hoeveler, threatening to recant his testimony on the grounds that the government was reneging on its bargain.
Bill Moushey writes
The Post-Gazette examines the government’s growing reliance on informants and criminals to make its cases, which sometimes leads to cases built on lies, paid for with cash or reduced sentences.
According to the May 26, 1996 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Carlos Lehder, the murdering drug-lord once considered America’s public enemy №1, had begun cutting a deal with U.S. authorities “that would eventually land him in the Federal Witness Protection Program,” even before his capture by Colombian authorities in 1987. As soon as he was extradited to the United States, Lehder began to get special treatment, including a two-cell unit at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, and a phone.
“There he made contact with aides to Vice President George Bush, who agreed to reduce his sentence for testifying against Noriega. Lehder admitted he had no direct contact with Noriega,” and his “rambling testimony” was so incoherent the judge considered ordering a psychiatric examination,” the paper said. Nonetheless, his family was re-settled in the United States at taxpayers’ expense, and he kept his drug money.
Almost all the prosecution witnesses including drug lord Carlos Lehder received reduced sentences, money, immunity, or green cards to testify against Noriega.
Some convicts make a living off perjured testimony. This is a process known as “jumping the bus” where individuals had paid for information so they could “jump on the bus” and testify in the drug case against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.
PBS. “Interviews — Juan David Ochoa | Drug Wars | FRONTLINE | PBS.” PBS, 9 Oct. 2000, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/interviews/ochoajdo.html
Olivieri, Andrea. “George Bush’s Deal with Colombia’s Medellin Cartel Explodes in His Face.” Executive Intelligence Review, vol. 18, no. 47, Dec. 1991, p. 36.
Noriega, Manuel, and Peter Eisner. America’s Prisoner: The Memoirs of Manuel Noriega. 1st ed., Random House, 1997.
Cole, Richard. “Lehder: U.S. Offered To Let Him Smuggle Drugs in Exchange for Contra Aid.” AP NEWS [Miami, FL], 22 Nov. 1991, apnews.com/article/5245efc9806601a241173ffbc36936af.
Moushey, Bill. “Once, Carlos Lehder Was atop the Most Wanted List; but There Was Someone Else the U.S. Wanted More.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Pittsburgh, PA], 15 July 1996.
Lyons, David. “Mental Exam Considered for Lehder.” The Miami Herald [Miami, FL], 4 Dec. 1991.
News, AP. “Carlos Lehder Wants to Recant Noriega Testimony.” Pensacola News Journal [Miami, FL], 7 Apr. 1996.