Afghan operative tied to Taliban gets life for heroin sales in U.S.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that an Afghanistan national that has ties to the Taliban will spend the rest of his life in prison for conspiring to distribute heroin in the U.S. and using the drug proceeds to purchase arms and supplies for a known terrorist organization.
Haji Bagcho, a large scale drug trafficker, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia, according to Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the (DEA). In addition to prison, Bagcho’s will forfeit the $254,203,032 in drug proceeds as well as his property in Afghanistan.
“This is DEA at its finest, working in close collaboration with our Afghan partners to end the long reign of this Afghan drug lord whose drug proceeds financed terror,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “One of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers who helped fund the Taliban will spend his remaining days behind bars in a U.S. prison due to the relentless efforts of DEA, our Afghan counterparts and our prosecuting partners.”
Heroin is one of Afghanistan’s most profitable crops and it’s a point of contention with American military forces that are not allowed to rid the tribal nation of the profits from poppies that are used to kill soldiers.
“Haji Bagcho led a massive drug production and trafficking operation that supplied heroin in more than 20 countries, including the United States,” said Breuer. “In 2006 alone, he conducted heroin transactions worth more than $250 million. Bagcho used the profits of his narcotics trafficking operation to support high-level Taliban commanders in Afghanistan. Today’s life sentence is an appropriate punishment for one of the most notorious heroin traffickers in the world.”
The Afghan national was convicted after a three-week trial. Bagcho was found guilty of “one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; and one count of narco-terrorism,” the DEA said. In 2006, the U.S. implemented the narco-terrorism statute in an effort to crack down on international drug trafficking.
Bagcho was charged in 2010, after he was arrested and extradited to the United States from Afghanistan in May 2009. The DEA worked with their Afghan counterparts to conduct the investigation that uncovered Bagcho as one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world who manufactured the drug in clandestine laboratories along Afghanistan’s border region with Pakistan.
According to information presented at trial, “Bagcho, who had been operating his heroin business since at least the 1990s, sent the drug to more than 20 countries, including the United States. Proceeds from his heroin trafficking were then used to support high-level members of the Taliban in furtherance of their insurgency in Afghanistan.”
“With the help of cooperating witnesses, evidence showed that the DEA purchased heroin directly from Bagcho’s organization on two occasions, which Bagcho understood was destined for the United States,” a DEA statement read. The DEA also conducted several searches of Bagcho’s residences and his known associates that retrieved evidence consistent with drug trafficking.
During the trial, prosecutors presented ledgers recovered from Bagcho that catalogued his drug trafficking activities during 2006 alone. The ledger reflected heroin sales totaling more than 123,000 kilograms, with a street value of more than $250 million. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime for 2006, Bagcho’s heroin trafficking business accounted for 20 percent of the world’s heroin supply.
“Over several years, evidence at trial established that Bagcho used a portion of his drug proceeds to provide cash, weapons and other supplies to the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar Province and two Taliban commanders responsible for insurgent activity in eastern Afghanistan, so that they could continue their ‘jihad’ against western troops and the Afghan government,” court papers showed.
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