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Former Turks And Caicos Minister Arrested In Lehder Case

September 3, 1987

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The former chief minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Norman B. Saunders, has been arrested as a material witness in the cocaine-smuggling trial of Colombian Carlos Lehder Rivas.

Saunders, 43, the first foreign head of state arrested on U.S. drug charges, is accused of providing overnight facilities for Lehder and those working for him, according to an affidavit from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

DEA agent Douglas Driver said Saunders also supplied 800 pounds of marijuana to Jacksonville-based smugglers, some of whom had gone to work for Lehder in the cocaine business.

He was arrested Aug. 19, according to court records revealed Wednesday.

Lehder is alleged to be one of the top leaders of a Colombian drug cartel. He faces trial on charges that he was responsible for the smuggling of 3.2 tons of cocaine into the United States between 1979 and 1980.

Saunders resigned in 1985 as head of the government of the British colony, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the Bahamas, when he was indicted in Miami on federal drug charges.

He was acquitted on charges that he offered to bribe undercover drug agents and of conspriracy to import cocaine and marijuana, but was convicted of conspiracy to violate travel laws and with traveling to promote an illegal business.

Saunders served two years of an eight-year federal sentence at Big Spring Federal Prison Camp in Texas.

Federal prosecutors here obtained a warrant for his arrest and he was picked up on Aug. 19, the day he was paroled from prison.

If Saunders had not been arrested on the material witness warrant, he would have been deported by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John H. Moore II allowed Saunders to be released on $60,000 bond. He will live under government supervision with a relative in Miami while awaiting the Lehder trial to begin Oct. 5.

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