Seven Defendants Charged with Conspiring to Aid the Taliban
NEW YORK – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the unsealing of charges against seven defendants for conspiring to provide various forms of support to DEA confidential sources whom they believed to be representatives of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The seven defendants are: 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".
As alleged in the charging documents unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, the assistance the defendants allegedly agreed to provide the Taliban took various forms. Some of the defendants 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 defendants agreed to sell substantial quantities of cocaine that the Taliban could sell at a profit in the United States. Saade, along with U.S. citizens Pouryan and Orbach, agreed to sell weapons to the Taliban, including surface-to- air missiles ("SAMs"), to be used to protect Taliban-owned heroin laboratories against United States attack 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,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. “Working alongside our courageous partners there, and around the world, we will continue to uncover, disrupt, dismantle, and bring to justice narcoterrorist organizations like this one."
"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,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “We will continue to work with our trusted law enforcement partners here and abroad to incapacitate and hold accountable anyone who takes steps to assist enemies of the United States."
According to the Indictment and Complaint unsealed today: Beginning in the summer of 2010, the defendants communicated with confidential sources ("CSs") working with the DEA who purported to represent the Taliban. The communications occurred by telephone, via email, and in a series of audio recorded and videotaped meetings over several months in Benin, Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania. During meetings with the CSs beginning in June 2010 in Benin and Ghana, Saade, Nasr, Dato, and Bouraima agreed to receive and store multi-ton shipments of Taliban-owned heroin in Benin. Thereafter, these four defendants agreed to transport the heroin to Ghana, from where they understood portions of the heroin would be sent on a commercial airplane to the United States to be sold for the financial benefit of the Taliban.
During these meetings, defendants Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato, and Bouraima also agreed to sell multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine to the Taliban that they could then sell at a profit. Like the heroin, the defendants understood that portions of the cocaine sold to the CSs would be transported to the United States by commercial airline and then sold in this country.
During meetings in Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania beginning in October 2010, defendants Saade, Pouryan, and Orbach, at different times, agreed to arrange the sale of weapons, including SAMs, to the CSs for the Taliban’s use in Afghanistan. Saade introduced the CSs to Pouryan, whom Saade described as a weapons trafficker affiliated with Hezbollah. The CSs thereafter engaged in a series of meetings with Pouryan and Orbach during which Pouryan and Orbach discussed specifications, pricing, and the provision of training for the sale of various weapons, including, among others, SAMs, anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, AK-47s, and M-16s.
Five of the defendants – Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato, and Bouraima – were arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, in coordination with Liberian authorities, on February 10 and 12, 2011, and were transferred thereafter by the Government of Liberia to the custody of the United States.
The two remaining defendants – Pouryan and Orbach – were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, in coordination with Romanian authorities, on February 10, 2011, where they remain pending extradition to the United States.
The charges contained in the Indictment and Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.