A German and Polish national are awaiting an extradition hearing after being detained by Estonian authorities last week for their suspected connection to an international drug ring whose members were conspiring to kill an American anti-narcotics agent and an informant, and to smuggle cocaine into the US by aircraft.
The Estonian Prosecutor's Office told ERR News that two suspects, Slawomir Soborski and Michael Filter, are in preliminary custody on the request of US authorities for 60 days, until November 24. Estonian authorities are currently waiting to receive a formal request for extradition. Officials would not say why they had been in Estonia at the time of their arrest.
Three additional arrests were made in Thailand and Liberia, from where those suspects have already been extradited to the US, in an undercover investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency spanning four continents, according to a September 27 statement from the US Attorney's Office, which says it has suspended further media updates amid the government funding crisis.
Perhaps the most curious detail is that the five suspects, aged 27 to 48, are all retired servicemen, four of them trained snipers, having served in the armed forces of the US, Germany and Poland.
Soborski and Filter were detained on September 25 and for the time being only face drug smuggling charges. The three other defendants are Joseph Manuel Hunter, Timothy Vamvakias, both US citizens, and Dennis Gogel, a German citizen.
According to the indictment, the group was led by Hunter, who, since leaving the US military in 2004, "has acted as a contract killer and successfully arranged for the murder of a number of people."
An 'elaborate scheme'
US authorities described "an elaborate scheme" to murder a special agent and a boat captain in Liberia who served as a source to authorities, in exchange for a total of 800,000 dollars.
From January to late September 2013, Hunter had held meetings in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean with confidential sources working with the DEA, who purported to be Colombian narcotics traffickers.
Among the details of the conspiracy are plans to enter Liberia without having passports stamped and to escape with a private plane to avoid detection; the delivery of a sub-machine gun and two .22 caliber pistols; and the use of "two highly sophisticated latex facemasks, which can make the wearer appear to be of another race."
In late September 2013, Gogel and Vamvakias arrived in Liberia to commit the planned murders.
In the US Attorney's Office statement, attorney Preet Bharara said: "The bone-chilling allegations in today's indictment read like they were ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel. The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends. Three of the defendants were ready, willing and eager to take cold hard cash to commit the cold-blooded murders of a DEA agent and an informant. Thanks to the determined, skillful and intrepid efforts of the DEA's Special Operations Division, an international hit team has been neutralized by agents working on four continents."
The authorities said the arrests were made in close cooperation with a list of international partners, including the Estonian Police and Border Guard, the Estonian National Criminal Police and the Estonian State Prosecutor’s Office.