NEW YORK , Oct. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An Afghan drug trafficker charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics with intent to support a terrorist organization was arrested, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J. Garcia and Acting Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Michele M. Leonhart announced today. Haji Juma Khan , 54, a/k/a Abdullah or Haji Juma Khan Mohammadhasni, is among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute.
According to the indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, since at least 1999 Khan led an international opium, morphine and heroin trafficking organization (the "Khan Organization") based principally in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces of southern Afghanistan . The Khan Organization arranged to sell morphine base, an opium derivative that can be processed into heroin, in quantities as large as 40 tons - enough to supply the entire U.S. heroin market for more than two years. In addition, the indictment alleges that the Khan Organization also operated labs in Afghanistan that produced refined heroin and sold the drug in quantities of as much as 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, and more.
Khan has been closely aligned with the Taliban, which was designated by the President of the United States as a "specially designated global terrorist group" in 2002. The Taliban's totalitarian government controlled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001, when it was removed from power by the United States and allied military forces. Since the United States' military intervention, the Taliban has operated an insurgency aimed at re-establishing its control of Afghanistan and forcibly expelling the United States and its allies through terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, shootings and kidnappings, which target American soldiers, Afghan political leaders, security contractors and civilians. The Taliban has publicly claimed credit for terrorist attacks, including a Jan. 14, 2008 , attack on civilians and employees at the Serena Hotel in Kabul , in which an American citizen was murdered.
The Taliban's terrorist insurgency has been funded in part by drug traffickers who provide financing to the Taliban in exchange for protection for their drug routes, production labs, and opium poppy fields. Khan has supported the Taliban's efforts to forcibly remove the United States and its allies from Afghanistan by providing financial support in the form of drug proceeds.
"The arrest of Haji Juma Khan is another significant step in the continuing effort to combat terrorism by stopping the flow of narcotics proceeds that help fund the Taliban and other terrorist organizations," said U.S. Attorney Garcia.
"Proceeds from Haji Juma Khan's global drug trafficking organization funded the terrorist activities of the Taliban," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart . "His arrest disrupts a significant line of credit to the Taliban and will shake the foundation of his drug network that has moved massive quantities of heroin to worldwide drug markets."
U.S. Attorney Garcia praised the investigative work of the DEA, with the assistance of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency, and thanked the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Jandarma for their role in the case. He also thanked United States and international INTERPOL authorities for their support.
Khan will be presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis for initial appearance and arraignment. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald will preside over future proceedings in this case. A conference is scheduled before Judge Buchwald on Oct. 28, 2008 .
If convicted, Khan faces a maximum sentence of life and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office's International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marshall A. Camp and Eugene Ingoglia are in charge of the prosecution.
The charge contained in the indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice