Afghan heroin kingpin with Taliban ties gets life sentence on narco-terror charges
An Afghan national with connections to the Taliban has been sentenced to life in prison and ordered to forfeit over $200 million in drug proceeds for conspiring to distribute heroin into the U.S. and for using drug proceeds to fund, arm and supply the Taliban.
Haji Bagcho, an Afghan national, was sentenced on June 12 in a federal court in the District of Columbia. He had been convicted of the narco-terror and drug trafficking charges last March. Along with the life sentence, he was ordered to forfeit $254,203,032 in drug proceeds along with his property in Afghanistan.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), his trial was only the second under the narco-terrorism statute since its enactment in 2006, which makes it a crime to use drug sale proceeds to finance acts of terrorism. After his arrest and extradition to the U.S. from Afghanistan in May 2009, Bagcho was indicted on Jan. 28, 2010.
“Haji Bagcho led a massive drug production and trafficking operation that supplied heroin in more than 20 countries, including the United States,” said assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer in a June 12 statement. “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 DEA, in cooperation with their Afghan counterparts, conducted the investigation, that showed Bagcho was one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world and 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. With the help of cooperating witnesses, trial evidence showed that the DEA purchased heroin directly from Bagcho’s organization on two occasions, which he understood was destined for the U.S. Ledgers found in searches of residences owned by Bagcho and his associates showed that during 2006 alone, heroin transactions totaling more than 123,000 kilograms, worth more than $250 million. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime for 2006, the defendant’s trafficking accounted for approximately 20 percent of the total amount of heroin produced worldwide that year, said the DEA.
Over several years, it said, 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.