Drug Enforcement Administration

DEA Headquarters

June 01, 2018

Contact: National Media Affairs Office

Phone Number: (202) 307-1000

DEA-led pursuit of Pakistani drug lord leads to U.S. guilty plea

Kingpin-designated Shahbaz Khan led heroin trafficking network in Middle East

(NEW YORK) – DEA and federal prosecutors announced that Pakistani drug kingpin Shahbaz Khan has pled guilty to heroin trafficking in a Manhattan court room. Khan was the leader of a drug trafficking organization based in Afghanistan and Pakistan that produced and distributed massive quantities of heroin around the world. In 2007, Khan was designated a Narcotics Kingpin under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by then-president George W. Bush. Between approximately August 2016 and October 2016, Khan conspired to send tens of thousands of kilograms of heroin hidden in maritime shipping containers and air cargo shipments to New York City. Khan was arrested in December 2016 by Liberian authorities and immediately expelled to the United States for prosecution. 

“The arrest of Shahbaz Khan was a result of DEA’s relentless pursuit of global drug traffickers and other dangerous transnational criminal networks with our partners across the world. Khan led a massive and sophisticated heroin network based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the vast majority of drug trafficking proceeds have historically been used to finance terrorist insurgencies against the U.S. and our global allies. He agreed to send huge amounts of deadly drugs to American streets and neighborhoods, which would have fueled the current opioid epidemic and facilitated addiction and abuse by supplying huge amounts of heroin to New York and nationwide. We are pleased he is facing American justice in a United States court of law.”

“Shahbaz Khan boasted to an undercover officer about his ability to smuggle drugs anywhere in the world without detection. The DEA put the lie to that boast. Khan has now admitted to conspiring and attempting to import massive quantities of heroin into the United States, and this international narcotics kingpin is now a convicted felon awaiting what could be a substantial sentence,” said Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Beginning in August 2016, Khan began communicating in a series of telephone calls and in-person meetings in countries in Southwest Asia with individuals whom Khan believed were heroin traffickers interested in purchasing kilogram quantities of heroin for importation into the United States. Those individuals were, in fact, working at the DEA’s direction, and included an undercover law enforcement officer. 

In late September 2016, Khan traveled to a country in Southwest Asia where Khan met with the undercover and others. During the meeting, Khan agreed to provide the UC with an initial shipment of five kilograms of heroin for importation into the United States. Khan informed the UC that, once the five kilograms of heroin successfully arrived in New York City, Khan would begin supplying the UC with larger quantities of heroin on a regular basis, including up to 10,000 kilograms of heroin at a time. Khan assured the UC that the heroin Khan would provide was 100% pure. In describing his history as a narcotics trafficker, Khan explained he had done work that “had not been done in the past hundred years,” including supplying 114 tons of heroin and hashish to a customer over a one-year period. Khan explained that he could ship drugs “anywhere in the word,” hidden in maritime shipping containers or in air-cargo shipments. 

In early October 2016, one of Khan employees, acting at his direction, delivered the five-kilogram initial shipment of heroin in the same country in Southwest Asia. Through a series of recorded telephone calls, Khan confirmed with the undercover that the heroin his employee had provided was Khan’s, that the heroin was to be transported to New York City, and that Khan would be paid for the heroin once it arrived in the United States.

In December 2016, Khan traveled with the UC to Liberia to inspect a warehouse that could serve as a transshipment point for maritime heroin shipments between Pakistan and New York. He was arrested by Liberian authorities upon his arrival in Liberia and expelled to the United States. 

Khan, 70, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to import one kilogram and more of heroin into the United States, and to one count of attempting to distribute one kilogram and more of heroin, knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States. Khan faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October 9, 2018. 

In addition to DEA’s Special Operations Division’s Bilateral Investigations Unit, who led and coordinated the investigation, others involved in the case include: DEA Accra, Canberra, Sydney, Dubai, Islamabad, Kabul, Nairobi, and New Delhi Country Offices; the DEA New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Financial Investigative Team; the Government of Liberia; the Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency; the DEA Nairobi Country Office Kenyan Police Vetted Unit; the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission; and the Maldives Police Service. The defendant’s arrest and subsequent expulsion are also the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. 
 

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