WASHINGTON – An Afghan national with ties to the Taliban was convicted today by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia of conspiracy, distribution of heroin for importation into the United States and narco-terrorism, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Haji Bagcho, from Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, was investigated by the DEA for narcotics offenses. The investigation revealed that Bagcho was one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world and manufactured the drug in clandestine laboratories along Afghanistan’s border region with Pakistan. Bagcho sent heroin to more than 20 countries, including the United States. Proceeds from his heroin trafficking were then used to support high-level members of the Taliban to further their insurgency in Afghanistan.
Beginning in 2005 and continuing for the next five years, the DEA, in cooperation with Afghan authorities, conducted an investigation of Bagcho’s organization. With the help of cooperating witnesses, the DEA purchased heroin directly from the organization on two occasions, which Bagcho understood was destined for the United States. They also conducted several searches of residences belonging to Bagcho and his associates, recovering evidence consistent with drug trafficking. During one search, ledgers belonging to the defendant were found. One ledger, cataloguing Bagcho’s activities during 2006, reflected heroin transactions of more than 123,000 kilograms, worth more than $250 million, according to Bagcho’s ledger. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime for 2006, the defendant’s trafficking accounted for approximately 20% of the world’s total production for that year.
The investigation also obtained evidence that over several years, Bagcho used a portion of his drug proceeds to provide the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar Province and two Taliban commanders responsible for insurgent activity in eastern Afghanistan with cash, weapons and other supplies so that they could continue their “jihad” against western troops and the Afghan government.
“Haji Bagcho was a prolific and dangerous heroin manufacturer, trafficking in over 123,000 kilograms of the drug in 2006 alone,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Moreover, he used proceeds from his crimes to fund Taliban insurgents and fuel their ongoing ‘jihad’ against the United States and others. The effects of Bagcho’s criminal activity were felt all over the world, and today’s guilty verdict ensures that he will serve a lengthy prison term.”
“One of the world’s most prolific drug trafficker’s reign has come to an end,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “Now Haji Bagcho will serve time behind bars on the same soil he sought to destroy with his drugs, and whose troops he sought to kill through his support to the Taliban. DEA stands committed to stopping narco-traffickers, like Bagcho, and their funding of terror.”
A grand jury returned an indictment against Bagcho on Nov. 8, 2006, charging him with distributing heroin, knowing that it would be imported into the United States. A superseding indictment returned on Jan. 28, 2010, added additional charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of heroin, knowing or intending that it would be imported in the United States, as well as engaging in drug trafficking knowing or intending to provide something of pecuniary value to a terrorist or terrorist organization. Bagcho was brought to the United States on June 24, 2009. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled before the Honorable Ellen S. Huvelle on June 12, 2012.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Matthew Stiglitz and Marlon Cobar of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The case was investigated by the DEA Special Operations Division in the United States, with assistance from the DEA’s Foreign Deployed Advisory Support Team and Kabul Country Office in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and in close cooperation with Afghan law enforcement. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided invaluable support.