- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2003

A British national has been arrested by federal agents in a 1991 scheme to illegally export a U.S. combat jet intended for use in killing Pablo Escobar, the then-leader of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel, federal authorities said yesterday.

Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said agents arrested David Brian Tomkins, 63, a reputed British mercenary, after he was intercepted this week at George Bush International Airport in Houston on a flight from London.

Mr. Tomkins was detained by ICE agents and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors after they determined there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Miami, Mr. Boyd said.

He was traveling to the United States to attend survival training at Fort Bliss, Texas, to obtain employment as a security official with a firm involved in reconstruction in Iraq, Mr. Boyd said.

“The arrest of this individual removes a key player from the ranks of international arms dealers. One of the most important missions of ICE is to put these individuals out of business and prevent them from trafficking in sensitive U.S. weapons,” said ICE boss Michael J. Garcia, the bureau’s acting assistant secretary.

Mr. Boyd said an investigation into Mr. Tomkins began in 1991 when agents in Puerto Rico received word he was attempting to buy a combat jet for use in killing Escobar. U.S. authorities began an undercover probe and soon met with Mr. Tomkins in Miami to negotiate the sale of an A-37 Dragonfly, a Vietnam-era turbojet often used in counterinsurgency efforts.

He said the agents learned that Mr. Tomkins was being paid $10 million by the rival Cali drug cartel to assassinate Escobar. Mr. Tomkins said he was a mercenary and sought to buy the A-37 aircraft to bomb a prison in Colombia housing Escobar, Mr. Boyd said.

Mr. Boyd said Mr. Tomkins also discussed the need to purchase bombs and a helicopter to survey the prison after the planned bombing to ensure that Escobar was dead.

After an inspection of the attack jet, Mr. Tomkins provided undercover agents with $25,000 as a down payment for the aircraft in December 1991, according to an indictment handed down in April 1994 by a federal grand jury in Miami.

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