New York: A 70-year-old Pakistani national, who was leader of a drug trafficking organisation based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into the US and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Shahbaz Khan pleaded guilty on Thursday to a superseding indictment in Manhattan federal court before US district judge Lorna Schofield to charges of conspiring and attempting to import heroin into the US.
He was taken into custody by Liberian authorities in December 2016 and expelled to the US based on a pending complaint, Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said.
He will face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison when he will be sentenced in October.
Berman said Khan "boasted" to an undercover officer about his ability to smuggle drugs anywhere in the world without detection.
"The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) put the lie to that boast. Khan has now admitted to conspiring and attempting to import massive quantities of heroin into the US, and this international narcotics kingpin is now a convicted felon awaiting what could be a substantial sentence," he said.
Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond Donovan said 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 US and America's global allies.
Donovan said Khan agreed to send huge amounts of deadly drugs to American streets and neighbourhoods, which would have fuelled the current opioid epidemic and facilitated addiction and abuse by supplying huge amounts of heroin to New York and nationwide.
According to the complaint and the superseding indictment, Khan was the leader of a drug-trafficking organisation 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 Bush. Between approximately August 2016 and October 2016, he conspired to send tens of thousands of kilograms of heroin hidden in maritime shipping containers and air cargo shipments to New York City.
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 he believed were heroin traffickers interested in purchasing kilogram quantities of heroin for importation into the US.
Those individuals were in fact working at the DEA's direction, and included an undercover law enforcement officer.
In late September 2016, Khan travelled to a country in Southwest Asia where he met with an undercover officer. During the meeting, Khan agreed to provide the undercover officer with an initial shipment of five kilograms of heroin for importation into the US.
Khan informed the officer that once the five kilograms of heroin successfully arrived in New York City, he would begin supplying larger and "100 percent" quantities of heroin on a regular basis, including up to 10,000 kilograms of heroin at a time.
In describing his history as a narcotics trafficker, Khan said 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.
He said he could ship drugs "anywhere in the word", hidden in maritime shipping containers or in air-cargo shipments.
In December 2016, Khan travelled with the undercover officer 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 US.
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2018 11:46:20 IST