MIAMI -- U.S. government agents allowed a key Colombian witness against Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega to leave the United States last month, prompting an internal investigation at the U.S. Customs Service and fears that the incident could jeopardize the drug conspiracy case against the ousted Panamanian leader, according to well-placed government sources.
In independent interviews, the sources told Newsday that Boris Olarte Morales, a Colombian convicted on federal drug-smuggling charges in Oklahoma, had left for Colombia last month, reportedly cleared by the Customs Service. He was free on probation based on his cooperation in many drug cases.
The sources said they did not know why Olarte had been allowed to leave, saying it could have been merely an administrative error. But one source said his departure could lead to charges either that the government was trying to damage its own case by making a crucial witness unavailable or that it was trying to protect its case from attacks by the defense based on contradictions in Olarte's story.
Speculation that the government might try to damage its own case is based on the concern of several federal agencies that the defense will highlight General Noriega's relationship with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the CIA.