US authorities have arrested a UN employee who allegedly used pouches to smuggle in illegal drugs and was part of a ring which brought 25 tons of contraband into New York over the past one-and-half years.
Osman Osman, a mail clerk, allegedly received shipments of 'khat', an illegal stimulant grown in East Africa, at the United Nations and sent them across to America.
Prosecutors allege that Osman, a Somali citizen who had been employed at the United Nations for 29 years, was an important cog in the largest 'khat' trafficking enterprise America has known.
Forty-four defendants were named in the indictment, and 14 were still at large, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office said.
'Khat' is an evergreen shrub grown along the Horn of Africa. Chewing the leaves has long been a custom in the countries of the region.
Immigrants have brought the habit to America, where the active chemical in the leaf is as illegal as heroin.
The trafficking ring exposed on Wednesday was responsible for importing more than $10 million worth of 'khat' since the end of 2004, according to the indictment.
A portion of the proceeds were sent back to Europe and the UAE in order to repay 'khat' producers, the indictment said.
At the regular noon briefing, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said that the United Nations fully cooperated with US authorities in the investigation of the case. "We don't want our premises to be used for criminal purposes."