* United States v. Saade, et al. (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2011) (arms & narcotics conspiracy)
An interesting indictment unsealed today in NYC, involving an undercover operation in which DEA agents posed as Taliban reps seeking to sell heroin and other narcotics and to purchase SAMs. I don’th have the underlying documents, but the press release appears below:
NEW YORK — Charges have been unsealed against seven defendants – Maroun Saade; Walid Nasir, 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,” for conspiring to provide various forms of support to confidential sources of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) whom they believed to be representatives of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator of the DEA, announced day.
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 U.S. attack in Afghanistan. All of the defendants except Orbach are charged in the indictment that was unsealed today. Orbach was charged in a complaint, which was also unsealed today.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “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 inter-connected world in which terrorists and drug runners can link up across continents to harm Americans. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners here and abroad to incapacitate and punish anyone who takes steps to assist enemies of the United States.”
DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart stated: “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. Working alongside our courageous partners here, and around the world, we will continue to uncover, disrupt, dismantle and bring to justice narco-terrorist organizations like this one.”
According to the indictment and complaint unsealed today:
Beginning in the summer of 2010, the defendants communicated with confidential sources (CSs) working with 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, the Ukraine and Romania.
During meetings with the CSs, beginning in June 2010 in Benin and Ghana, defendants 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 by the CS’s on a commercial airplane to the United States to be sold for the financial benefit of the Taliban.
During those 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.
The indictment charges the following defendants with the following counts. Count one charges Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato, Bouraima and Pouryan with conspiracy to engage in narco-terrorism. Count two charges Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato and Bouraima with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing or intending that the cocaine would be imported into the United States. Count three charges Saade, Nasr, Dato and Bouraima with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing or intending that the heroin would be imported into the United States. Count four charges Saade, Nasr and Pouryan with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists – namely, the Taliban. Count five charges Saade and Pouryan with conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles.
The complaint charges Orbach with the following counts. Count one charges him with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists – namely, the Taliban. Count two charges him with conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles.
The maximum and, in some cases, mandatory minimum penalties for these offenses are as follows. Count one of the indictment carries a maximum term of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison. Count two of the indictment carries a maximum term of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. Count three of the indictment carries a maximum term of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. Count four of the indictment and count one of the complaint carries a maximum term of 15 years in prison. Count five of the indictment and count two of the complaint carries a maximum term of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison.
Five of the defendants – Saade, Nasr, Ahissou, Dato, and Bouraima – were arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, in coordination with Liberian authorities, on Feb. 10 and Feb. 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 Feb. 10, 2011, where they remain pending extradition to the United States.