December 05, 2005
Contact: SA Heath Anderson
Phone Number: (202) 305-8500
Pakistani Father and Son Convicted in International Heroin Trafficking Scheme
Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Washington Division, Shawn A. Johnson, announced that Muzaffar Khan Afridi, age 70, and his son Alamdar Khan Afridi, age 29, of Pakistan, were convicted after a four-week trial on 13 counts relating to their family’s international heroin trafficking organization. Each defendant was convicted of conspiracies to distribute and import one kilogram or more of heroin; three counts of distribution of heroin; and eight counts of using a communications facility (telephone or fax) to facilitate heroin offenses.
According to evidence presented at trial, the Afridis distributed hundreds of kilograms of heroin to the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. Beginning in early 2001, a cooperating witness (“CW”) working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation negotiated to purchase heroin from Waiz Ul-Din Wardak, a resident of Peshawar, Pakistan, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Wardak served as a middleman while the Afridis arranged for the heroin to be carried from Pakistan to Canada by a courier who lived in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. On July 20, 2002, the courier delivered 1.4 kilograms of extremely high-purity heroin to the CW at a McDonald’s restaurant in Beltsville, Maryland. During the delivery, the courier telephoned the Afridis at their compound – located in a village a few kilometers outside of Peshawar. Following the delivery, the CW began negotiating directly with the Afridis for future heroin shipments. On August 14, 2002, the same courier delivered an additional 1.9 kilograms of similar heroin to the same McDonalds in Beltsville. The CW turned the heroin over to the DEA and FBI.
At a series of meetings in the fall of 2002 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the Afridis negotiated to sell the CW an additional 50 kilograms of heroin, to be delivered in London, United Kingdom. The first shipment of approximately 19.8 kilograms of heroin was shipped from Pakistan through Qatar to London in January 2003, hidden in the struts of 10 wooden crates containing soccer balls, weightlifting belts, and other sporting goods. Unbeknownst to the Afridis, the recipient was an undercover agent for Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, who was working with the DEA and FBI. Other British Customs agents examined the crates and found 120 packages of heroin buried in the struts. At the time of the delivery, the Afridis sent a series of faxes to the CW, including a diagram showing exactly where the heroin was hidden in the struts of the wooden crates.
In March 2003, British Customs seized an additional 17.7 kilograms of heroin that the Afridis were shipping to Cameroon, West Africa. Unaware of the seizure, the Afridis tried to sell this heroin to the CW. In April 2003, a federal grand jury in Greenbelt returned a sealed indictment charging the Afridis and others with narcotics offenses. A judge issued sealed arrest warrants. In August 2003, the CW and law enforcement agents lured the Afridis and other co-conspirators to a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, with the promise that debts would be paid. On August 29, 2003, at the request of the United States government and pursuant to provisional arrest warrants, officers of the Royal Thai Police arrested the Afridis and co-conspirators. While in custody, Alamdar Afridi admitted his involvement in drug trafficking to American agents while Muzaffar Afridi told co-conspirators in a Thai jail about a distribution organization that included airline pilots and other couriers and shipped hundreds of kilograms of heroin around the world each year. Muzaffar Afridi also described personally supervising the preparation of heroin at processing laboratories located along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In February 2004, a Thai court extradited the Afridis to the United States.
For the two heroin conspiracy counts and the three counts relating to distribution of heroin, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a $4,000,000 fine, and a minimum of five years supervised release. On the eight counts relating to use of a communications device to facilitate narcotics crimes, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 4 years imprisonment for money laundering, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release.
Earlier in the case, Zalmai Ibrahimi of Laurel, Maryland, Mohammed Khalid Azizi of Bangkok, and Waiz Ul-Din Wardak pleaded guilty to heroin conspiracy charges. Qadar Qudus of Fremont, California, pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the transmittal of funds to the Afridis via the “hawala” informal money transfer system. Rafiullah Habibi of Alexandria, Virginia pleaded guilty to operating an illegal hawala at the Afghan market in Alexandria and to a Travel Act violation. The heroin courier, Mohammed Idris of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, is a fugitive and is believed to be in Pakistan. Charges against one defendant, Mohammad Omar Azizi of Bangkok are still pending.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 16, 2006 at 9:30 am before Hon. Alexander Williams, Jr. in Greenbelt.
The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agents in the United Kingdom, the Royal Thai Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stuart A. Berman and Barbara S. Skalla.