WASHINGTON – An Afghan national with ties to the Taliban was sentenced to life in prison today for conspiring to distribute heroin to the United States and for using drug proceeds to fund, arm and supply the Taliban, 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, an Afghan national and large scale drug trafficker, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia. In addition to his prison term, Bagcho was ordered to forfeit $254,203,032 in drug proceeds along with his property in Afghanistan.
“Haji Bagcho led a massive drug production and trafficking operation that supplied heroin in more than 20 countries, including the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “In 2006 alone, he conducted heroin transactions worth more than $250 million. Bagcho used the profits of his narcotics trafficking operation to support high-level Taliban commanders in Afghanistan. Today’s life sentence is an appropriate punishment for one of the most notorious heroin traffickers in the world.”
“This is DEA at its finest, working in close collaboration with our Afghan partners to end the long reign of this Afghan drug lord whose drug proceeds financed terror,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “One of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers who helped fund the Taliban will spend his remaining days behind bars in a U.S. prison due to the relentless efforts of DEA, our Afghan counterparts and our prosecuting partners.”
Bagcho was convicted by a jury on March 13, 2012, after a three week trial, of one count of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States; and one count of narco-terrorism. The trial, before Judge Huvelle, was only the second under the narco-terrorism statute since its enactment in 2006.
Bagcho was charged in a superseding indictment on Jan. 28, 2010, after his arrest and extradition to the United States from Afghanistan in May 2009.
The DEA, in cooperation with their Afghan counterparts, conducted the investigation, which 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. According to information presented at trial, Bagcho, who had been operating his heroin business since at least the 1990s, sent the drug 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 in furtherance of their insurgency in Afghanistan.
With the help of cooperating witnesses, evidence showed that the DEA purchased heroin directly from Bagcho’s 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 and were later introduced at trial. One ledger, cataloguing Bagcho’s activities during 2006 alone, reflected heroin transactions totaling more than 123,000 kilograms, worth more than $250 million. 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 percent of the total amount of heroin produced worldwide that year.
Over several years, evidence at trial established that Bagcho used a portion of his drug proceeds to provide cash, weapons and other supplies to the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar Province and two Taliban commanders responsible for insurgent activity in eastern Afghanistan, so that they could continue their “jihad” against western troops and the Afghan government.
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 and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section provided invaluable support.