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Ex-official from South America arraigned on US drug charges

A retired South American police general has been arraigned in Northern Virginia on felony drug charges, and his lawyer alleged that others have pinned the crimes on him to seek better deals for themselves.

The general, who served as the security chief for the president of Colombia from 2002-06, turned himself in to agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, who went to his country to return him to Washington, D.C. His trial is due to start on Sept. 11.

The defense attorney said that when someone makes allegations, it could be to receive some sort of benefit. He said he could suspect who would try to pin drug charges on the man but would not state whom he thought stood to gain by his client going on trial.

The retired general is accused of giving out information about ongoing investigations by three intelligence forces of three countries, including the United States, in his home nation. In return, it is alleged that he received bribe money from drug traffickers and a former paramilitary group.

Three men who had served as commanders in the paramilitary group were arrested and extradited to the U.S. After that, the former general came under investigation.

The general retired from his country's national police force in 2009.

Since the man surrendered to DEA agents in his country, he entered the United States without a visa. His lawyer said that his counsel was working to try to clarify the man's immigration status so that he could be released on bond in advance of his trial.

The lawyer said it was important to remember that the man turned himself in under his own power to answer the charges. He also said that people needed to remember that although the man is a citizen of another country, he still is innocent until proven guilty under the American court system.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, "Colombian General Pleads Not Guilty to U.S. Drug Charges," July 6, 2012

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