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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Friday, July 17, 2015

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces The Arrest Of Afghan Narcotics Traffickers For Conspiring To Import Heroin Into The United States

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Mark Hamlet, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging HAJI LAJAWARD, AMAL SAID SAID ALAM SHAH, a/k/a “Haji Zar Mohammad,” and HABIBULLAH with conspiring to import heroin into the United States.  LAJAWARD and SHAH were arrested in Thailand on June 13, 2015, and subsequently brought to the United States.  They will be presented and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis this afternoon.  HABIBULLAH remains at large.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “At a time when heroin use and overdose deaths are on the rise in our communities, these three men allegedly conspired to import into this country kilogram quantities of heroin from Afghanistan.  I want to thank the DEA for their excellent work in investigating this matter.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark Hamlet said: “Like many international criminal networks, these alleged drug traffickers have no respect for borders, and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors.  This investigation highlights the significance of Afghanistan as a source for heroin around the world.  I wish to thank all of our international law enforcement partners for their outstanding efforts and partnership in dismantling this sophisticated and dangerous international criminal enterprise.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment,[1] the defendants and others conspired between May 2014 and April 2015 to violate U.S. narcotics laws prohibiting the importation of heroin.  Specifically, the Indictment charges LAJAWARD, SHAH, and HABIBULLAH with conspiring to (i) import one or more kilograms of heroin into the United States from a foreign country; and (ii) distribute one or more kilograms of heroin knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States.

As alleged in the Indictment, on January 15, 2015, Lajaward caused the delivery of three kilograms of heroin to another individual in Kabul, Afghanistan, while, on the same day, Habibullah received payment for that heroin in the United Arab Emirates.  Later that day, Lajaward and Shah spoke on the phone regarding the heroin transaction.

The charge in the Indictment carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s Special Operations Division; the DEA’s Kabul, Dubai, Tokyo, and Bangkok Country Offices; the DEA’s New York Field Division; the CNP-A Sensitive Investigative Unit of the Afghan Ministry of the Interior; the Dubai Police Department and the Anti-Narcotics Unit of the Emirati Ministry of Interior; Japan’s National Police Agency and the Saitama Prefectural Police; Thailand’s Sensitive Investigative Unit of the Royal Thai Police Narcotics Suppression Bureau; Thailand’s Attorney General’s Office; Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; INTERPOL; the U.S. Department of State; and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan F. Quigley is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.         


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Press Release Number: 
Updated July 17, 2015