The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 23, 2003 · Page 71
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 71

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Page 71
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14B THE PALM BEACH POST TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2003 MSL Terror expert flew cocaine shipments, FDLE reports By JOHN MURAWSKI Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Hank Asher, the Boca Raton businessman and former drug smuggler who gave birth to Florida's anti-terrorist database, acknowledged he flew shipments of cocaine during six months in 1982, but the activities he most regrets took up just seven days, he said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is set to pay $1.6 million for Asher's Matrix high-speed database, didn't fully believe the successful entrepreneur's self-portrayal as an anti-drug crusader guilty of making "just an isolated mistake of his youth." In a complete investigative report issued Monday, the agency gave credence to more damning accounts of Asher's high-flying past as depicted by former drug smugglers, federal prosecutors and undisclosed informants all characters in an underworld familiar to Asher where daredevil pilots went by such nicknames as 'Too Tall" and "Hurricane Kid." Asher's friend and onetime neighbor in the Bahamas, criminal defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey, remembered Asher "as something of a 'cowboy at the time," the FDLE report says. The FDLE determined: "Asher piloted five to seven plane loads of cocaine from Judge OKs extradition of publisher The Associated Press MIAMI A newspaper publisher should be extradited to Venezuela to face trial on a charge of masterminding the $1 million ransom kidnapping of an industrialist and longtime friend, a federal judge has ruled. Andres Eloy Dielingen, who publishes the Spanish-language weekly La Voz in Miami, claims he has been framed for the 1999 abduction of Antonio Nagen but "wants to get going" and does not plan any appeal, his attorney Oscar Rodriguez said Monday. Nagen was kidnapped while driving home alone at night in Caracas, was handed over to Colombia's ELN guerrillas and was freed two weeks later after the ransom was paid. Dielingen claims he has been set up by a man who was a chauffeur for both men, but extradition hearings do not permit presentation of a defense. He has been held in solitary confinement since his July arrest. "My client is very dejected. He is very concerned," Rodriguez said. "But he just wants to be able to prove his innocence." Rodriguez blames the extradition on close ties between Nagen and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Dielingen, 54, and a U.S. citizen, is opposed to Chavez. Get help from Dear Abby and other advice columnists everyday on page 2 of The Post's Accent section. Colombia to the United States; the largest load reportedly 700 kilos." Asher delivered the contraband to a ranch in Okeechobee County. The state also found reason to believe that around 1983, Asher became involved in planning a U.S.-backed assassination attempt of Nicaragua's Communist president, Daniel Ortega. An unnamed source told the FDLE last month that Asher offered to pay him $1 million to participate in the plot Another witness described the organizers as a "group of nobodies" to be piloted by Asher to carry out the operation. In one of his three interviews Us Asher with the FDLE last month, however, Asher told investigators he backed out of the scheme after realizing it would in volve killing people. Asher's past is "despicable," the FDLE's immediate past commissioner, James Moore, told the agency's investigators on Aug. 26. But in a pattern of good luck that has marked Asher's talent at reinventing himself, the state's top law enforcer said the businessman's criminal past had no bearing on the immense value of the Matrix database. Also, the federal government is paying $12 million to use Matrix to create a high-speed network linking law enforcement agencies nationwide. The FDLE investigation is the most detailed yet about Asher, a one-time Fort Lauderdale painting contractor, who was investigated in 1993 by Broward County authorities concerned that Asher's laundered drug money might have financed his Database Technologies venture. That probe was inconclusive, the FDLE said. But in 1999, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI suspend ed contracts with Database Technologies over Asher's past The FDLE is moving ahead with its plans to acquire the Matrix database from Seisint the latest Boca Raton company Asher created, after its founder abruptly severed his relationship with the company in the middle of the investigation. The agency investigated Asher after details of his drug trafficking had resurfaced in news reports that have dogged the Boca resident for years. From 1983 to 1987, Asher found a new calling: He recruited drug traffickers in the Bahamas as cooperating government witnesses, referring them to his lawyer-friend Bailey for representation. Though he portrayed him self as a soldier in the war on drugs, Asher proved less than forthcoming when he was being investigated. There were seven days of his life that he was not proud of," according to the FDLE's report "He stated they were not necessarily consecutive days. "Adding, that he had spent two decades paying for them," the report states. "Asher stated that he refers to the period of the early 1980s as the 'hazy period' of his life and felt uncomfortable talking about it." ' IS Open a business account that helps jou SAVE MONEY. As a bonus, get a personal account that helps jou SAVE MONEY. The Wachovia Custom Business Banking account lets you choose products and services you and your business need. 225 free transactions per month First order of checks free (up to $100) Free online banking More ways to avoid fees And we've included a personal reward for you. Now when you open a Custom Business Banking account, we'll give you a Crown account, our premium personal checking package, with no monthly service fee. After all, your business goals are designed to support your personal goals, right? Talk to us. Visit a Wachovia Financial Center, or call 800-566-3862. 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