- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A high-ranking female member of a left-wing Colombian terrorist organization has been convicted with two others in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on drug charges.

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said Nayibe Rojas Valderama, also known as “Sonia,” was convicted, along with co-defendants Jose Antonio Celis and Juan Diego Giraldo, on charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and conspiring to manufacture and distribute cocaine — knowing it would be unlawfully imported into the United States.

The convictions were handed down Tuesday by a federal jury after four days of deliberation.

Mr. McNulty said the convictions represented “a significant victory” against the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which he described as one of the most dangerous narcoterrorist organizations in Colombia.

Valderama has been identified by U.S. law-enforcement authorities as the finance officer of the 14th Front of FARC and is the highest-ranking member of the group to be convicted in the United States. She was extradited from Colombia to the United States in March 2005 to stand trial on the U.S. charges.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for May 7. The three each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison or a term of years as determined by the court.

“The FARC is a double evil — they poison the blood of our people with their drugs and spill the blood of their own with guns and machetes bought with drug profits,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration boss Karen P. Tandy said.

“As a financial officer for the guerrilla group, Sonia Valderama was directly responsible for converting drug money to blood money — that is, overseeing the conversion of millions of dollars of cocaine profits from cash to weapons, uniforms and ammunition to arm the most violent terrorists in this hemisphere,” Mrs. Tandy said.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Valderama oversaw all aspects of the purchasing and production of cocaine in the 14th Front territory, and collected all of the proceeds from the sale of cocaine for the 14th Front. The front is a group of about 250 militants that operates in the southern part of the country.

Prosecutors Ron McNeil, Stephen May and James Faulkner said Celis arranged for the purchase of large quantities of cocaine from Valderama and the 14th Front, and coordinated the shipment of cocaine from Colombia to Panama, and from Panama into the United States.

The prosecutors said Celis conspired with Valderama and Giraldo to purchase more than 11,000 pounds of cocaine for shipment to the United States.

They also said Giraldo introduced Celis to the 14th Front for the purpose of purchasing cocaine, worked with Valderama to purchase and transport cocaine, brought equipment for the 14th Front’s cocaine-production operation, and assisted Valderama in all aspects of cocaine production and sale.

The FARC controls large portions of Colombia and finances its violent conflict with the Colombian government by engaging in drug trafficking, augmented by other means such as kidnapping and extortion.

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