Top Taliban Associate and Former Mujahideen Warlord Sentenced to Life in Prison on Heroin Trafficking Charges
APR 30 -- LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BASHIR NOORZAI, a former Mujahideen warlord and strong ally of the Taliban, was
NOORZAI, the leader of his namesake tribe, one of Afghanistan's largest and most influential tribes, owned opium fields in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, and had subordinates convert the opium into heroin at laboratories in Afghanistan's border regions. Heroin from these labs was later imported into the United States, hidden in suitcases and on ships. As early as 1990, NOORZAI had a network of distributors in New York City who sold his heroin.
During the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, NOORZAI raised his own army of Mujahideen fighters, financed and armed with drug proceeds. After the Russian army had quit Afghanistan,
NOORZAI met MULLAH MOHAMMAD OMAR in the 1980s while the two fought in the same Mujahideen faction. In the mid-1990s, when the Taliban was ascending to power in Afghanistan, NOORZAI used his influence in Kandahar to assist OMAR in securing the position of supreme leader of the Taliban. NOORZAI then provided the Taliban with arms, including AK-47 assault rifles, rocket
In return for his financial and other support, the Taliban permitted NOORZAI to continue his drug trafficking activities with impunity. In addition, NOORZAI and his co-conspirators benefitted from advance knowledge of the Taliban's 2000 opium ban, and used that information to stockpile
At trial, NOORZAI was found guilty of both counts against him -- one count of conspiring to import heroin, and to manufacture and distribute heroin knowing that it would be imported into the United States, and one count of conspiring to distribute heroin.
NOORZAI, who faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, was sentenced by Judge CHIN to life imprisonment on each count in the Indictment. In sentencing NOORZAI, Judge CHIN found
Prior to his arrest in 2005, NOORZAI had been designated by the Department of Justice to the Consolidated Priority Organization Target ("CPOT") list, a list of the most powerful and dangerous narcotics traffickers in the world. His successful prosecution is the result of a long-term investigation
"BASHIR NOORZAI's worldwide narcotics network supported a Taliban regime that made Afghanistan a breeding ground for international terrorism, a legacy that continues to destabilize the region," said Acting United States Attorney LEV L. DASSIN."Today's sentence definitively puts an end to Noorzai’s long criminal career."
The prosecution was handled by the Office’s International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant United