DEA Sting Nets 7 Charged With Supporting Taliban

By Allan Lengel

A DEA sting resulted in authorities charging a group of people with plotting to move large shipments of drugs and weapons for the Taliban, authorities announced Monday.

In court documents unsealed in New York, authorities charged seven people with conspiring to provide “various forms of support to DEA confidential sources whom they believed to be representatives of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

The defendants included: Maroun Saade, Walid Nasr, aka “David Nasr,” Francis Sourou Ahissou, aka “Francois,” Corneille Dato, aka “Pablo,” Martin Raouf Bouraima, aka “Raul,” Alwar Pouryan, aka “Allan,” aka “Alberto,” and Oded Orbach, aka “Dedy,” aka “Jesse”.

Authorities said some defendants allegedly agreed to receive, store, and move ton-quantities of Taliban-owned heroin through West Africa, “portions of which they understood would then be sent to the United States.  Some also were willing to move  large quantities of cocaine.

Additionally, Saade, along with U.S. citizens Pouryan and Orbach, agreed to sell weapons to the Taliban, including surface-to- air missiles (“SAMs”)that would be used to protect Taliban-owned heroin laboratories against U.S. attacks in Afghanistan.

“Today we eliminated an entrenched global criminal network, preventing it from moving ton quantities of cocaine, laundering millions in drug money, and trading arms to the Taliban to undermine the rule of law and kill Americans. West Africa has emerged as a place where drugs and terror intersect,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara added: “As alleged, the defendants charged today, including two U.S. citizens, were prepared to provide millions of dollars in dangerous narcotics and lethal weapons to men they believed represented the Taliban. This alleged effort to arm and enrich the Taliban is the latest example of the dangers of an interconnected world in which terrorists and drug runners can link up across continents to harm Americans.”

Authorities said that five of the defendants  – Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato, and Bouraima – were arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, in coordination with Liberian authorities, on Feb. 10 and 12 of this year. They were then transferred by  Liberia to U.S. custody.

The two other defendants – Pouryan and Orbach – were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, in coordination with Romanian authorities, on Feb. 10. They now face extradition to the U.S.

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