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Horn of Plenty: Middle East Heroin and Meth Is Bound for the U.S. Through East Africa

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com

An indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of a major international drug trafficking enterprise in the Middle East and Africa is shining a light on law enforcement operations and the diplomatic challenges the United States faces in such foreign cases.

The complications of investigating international conspiracies and dealing with foreign treaties and corruption in foreign lands are among the obstacles U.S. law enforcers face in a case out of Kenya that illustrates the continued rise of East Africa as a global drug hub.

The indictment charges a suspected organized crime family in Kenya and associates from India and Pakistan with running a large-scale operation to transport heroin and meth from the Middle East, through East Africa, and to U.S. ports by sea.

Ibrahim Akasha and Baktash Akasha, Kenyan nationals and sons of the elder Ibrahim Akasha, who was murdered in Netherlands in 2000, face conspiracy and drug trafficking charges. They were arrested last week in Mombasa.

The Akasha organization is managed by Vijay Anandgiri Goswami, known in India as “Vicky” Goswami, the indictment states. A Pakistani man named Gulam Hussein, “Old Man,” is identified as the narcotics supplier for the alleged transportation network. They too were arrested in Mombasa.

Hussein has acknowledged transporting tons of heroin by sea, which he procured from one of the largest suppliers of white heroin in the world, the indictment states. He and the Akashas allegedly planned to import the drugs into the U.S.

People Daily, Daily Nation and others reported the arrests of Hussein, Gowami and the Akashas last week as the indictment was being unsealed in New York. The indictment states that Baktash Akasha met two confidential DEA sources posing as representatives of a Colombian drug trafficking organization in Mombasa, in March, and discussed a plan to import hundreds of kilograms of pure heroin, known as “100 percent white crystal,” into the United States. Akasha offered a discount to one of the DEA sources if he paid for the heroin up front, the indictment states.

He also told the source about a European communications company that provides secure cell phones to evade American or Israeli intelligence, according to the indictment.

During an April meeting in Mombasa that included his brother Ibrahim and Goswami, Akasha told the same DEA source that he had contacted a heroin supplier in Pakistan about buying 500 kilograms of “carat diamond,” referring to high-quality heroin, for importation into the U.S., the indictment states. Akasha told the DEA source that the supplier, who is not named in the indictment, could provide 420 kilograms.

In a recorded telephone conversation in June, Akasha talked to the DEA source about sending a sample of the heroin to East Africa. Later that month, Goswami talked with the DEA source about establishing meth labs in West Africa, offering that he could procure “ton-quantities” of the chemicals to produce meth in East Africa, the indictment states.

Akasha, Goswami and the DEA source talked over the next couple months about transactional details, it states, while DEA agents listened in. In September, Hussein, “Old Man,” arrived in a neighboring location.

On September 19, Hussein, Goswami, the Akashas, unnamed “co-conspirators” and the DEA source met in Mombasa. Hussein was introduced as a transporter from Afghanistan who moves ton quantities of narcotics using ships, the indictment states. Goswami provided a sample of the heroin and said the organization could deliver the bulk of it at an airstrip in a neighboring country in East Africa.

Goswami described the supplier of the heroin as the “number one supplier of white heroin in the world” and referred to him as “The Sultan,” the indictment states.

In October, Akasha and Goswami advised the DEA source to have pilots do “dry runs” while they waited for Hussein’s shipment. On October 9, the indictment states, the men informed the DEA source that 98 kilograms of heroin, referred to as “chickens,” had arrived, and that the source need only to pay for half of them, as the Akasha organization would pay for the rest. Later in the day, the amount of heroin available for delivery was increased to 198 kilograms.

The following day, the men talked by telephone with the DEA source about providing “high-quality methamphetamine,” which the DEA source said would be delivered to a “broker” in the United States, the indictment states.

Within a matter of days, the men told the DEA source they were working to get another 500 kilograms of the best quality heroin from “Old Man.” Baktash Akasha told the DEA source that “Old Man” had “big dreams for their business together.” Goswami talked with the DEA source about partnering in a meth lab, according to the indictment.

In November, Akasha’s brother Ibrahim met with DEA sources in Nairobi. Narcotics and money changed hands, the indictment states. On November 9, Ibrahim Akasha flew back to Mombasa, where he and his brother and “Vicky” Goswami and “Old Man” were arrested.

The mission was hardly a fait accompli at that point, however. DEA officials say vagaries of international law, diplomatic relations and the potential for corruption are complicating factors in gaining control of international drug traffickers for extradition to a U.S. courtroom.

Arresting criminal suspects in a foreign country requires filing a “Red Notice” with Interpol and a provisional warrant, according to DEA officials, who declined to comment on the Akasha indictment. The U.S. Attorney Office in Manhattan also declined to comment on the indictment.

Once suspects are arrested, State Department seeks extradition through diplomatic channels. Some nations, such as Afghanistan, have no such treaty with the U.S.

The State Department declined to comment.

Given its magnitude, the case is receiving close attention in Kenya and India, where “Vicky” Goswami is a folkloric crime figure, married to former Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni.

Last Thursday, the magistrate judge who approved the arrest warrants for Goswami, Hussein and the Akashas ordered the suspects held for 17 days pending extradition review, according to Kenyan news reports.

For U.S. officials and law enforcers, it will be a long 17 days.

 


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