UK reprieve for Pakistan’s ‘Sultan’ of drugs with India link

After the Westminster Magistrates Court cleared his extradition, he appealed in the high court against the home secretary’s subsequent approval to the order.
Hafeez was arrested for plotting to smuggle methamphetamine into US.(Courtesy:NYT)
Hafeez was arrested for plotting to smuggle methamphetamine into US.(Courtesy:NYT)
Updated on Feb 01, 2020 11:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

A British Pakistani known as ‘Sultan’ in an international drug procurement and distribution syndicate who sourced ephedrine (a commonly abused drug used as a stimulant) from India was on Friday allowed to appeal against his extradition to the United States to face charges of attempting to import heroin.

Muhammad Asif Hafeez, 61, was arrested in London in 2017 by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and lodged in the high security Belmarsh prison in the drug trafficking case also involving an Indian national Vijay Goswami.

After the Westminster Magistrates Court cleared his extradition, he appealed in the high court against the home secretary’s subsequent approval to the order.

Justice William Davis and Lord Justice Hamblen of the high court of England and Wales dismissed various grounds to block extradition, but said they had been persuaded that if extradited, he would face life imprisonment without parole, which would potentially violate his human rights.

According to court documents, the DEA between 2014 and 2017 conducted an investigation into proposed importation of drugs into the US, the geographical centre of the investigation being Kenya.

In the course of that investigation, the DEA’s co-operating sources were used to contact a man named Baktash Akasha (sentenced to 25 years in US jail in August 2019). The sources posed as Columbian drug traffickers wishing to obtain heroin for importation into the US.

They had various discussions with Akasha during the autumn of 2014 during which he apparently agreed to obtain heroin. He told the sources that his supplier was from Pakistan and went by various pseudonyms, one of which was ‘Sultan’.

Akasha was part of a criminal group which included his brother, Ibrahim, Vijay Goswami and Ghulam Hussein. In October 2014, 98 kilos of heroin were delivered to the sources, the delivery was organised by the four men in conjunction with ‘Sultan’.

In November 2014, the four men were arrested in Kenya, but were later released on bail before being handed over to DEA. The US Government said ‘Sultan’ was later identified as Muhammad Hafeez.

The US Government’s case is that Goswami agreed with Hafeez to set up a factory to manufacture methamphetamine. The proposal was for the factory to be in Mozambique. Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive drug abused for recreational purposes and is popularly known as blue, crystal, ice and meth.

“A precursor chemical element in the manufacture of methamphetamine is ephedrine. In 2016 authorities in India seized a very large quantity of ephedrine from a factory in Solapur in India, this said to have been intended for use in the factory in Mozambique. The intended destination of the methamphetamine, once produced, was said to be the United States,” the judgement noted.

Hafeez is reported to have had links with Bollywood actors and members of the royal family in Britain.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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