A man prosecutors say is among the world’s leading and most dangerous cocaine traffickers was ordered held without bond Monday on drug charges at a hearing where security was so tight the nails in people’s shoes set off an alarm.
Not guilty pleas to 11 drug-smuggling counts were entered by U.S. Magistrate Harvey S. Schlesinger on behalf of Carlos Lehder, 37.
The drug ring that authorities say he operates is responsible for 80% of the cocaine imported into this country, according to prosecutors. Lehder is “among the premier--if not the premier--drug trafficker in the world,” U.S. Atty. Robert Merkle said at the detention hearing.
Lehder has admitted publicly to “unprecedented violence,” said Merkle, who called him “the personal embodiment of a narco-terrorist.”
Schlesinger scheduled a March 23 trial and appointed counsel for Lehder, who said he was broke.
“I have been hounded by the Colombian army for the last four years,” Lehder said. “I’ve been in the jungle for the last four years disconnected from civilization.”
He said that his funds had been frozen by the Colombian government, which was also acting to freeze his Bahamian assets. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Monday slapped a $70-million lien on Lehder’s earnings, estimated at up to $300 million in the early 1980s.
Lehder’s temporary attorney, Rosemary Cakmis, objected to the courtroom security, which used metal detectors so sensitive that many spectators had to remove their shoes because the nails in them set off an alarm.