Headline Archives

   
INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS GET DRUGS OFF AMERICAN STREETS:
Heroin/Money Laundering Indictments in Maryland

09/23/03

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force graphicOn September 15, the US Attorney for the District of Maryland announced indictments on eleven men for their alleged part in an international drug trafficking and money laundering operation, tied to Pakistan and Thailand, that was designed to put heroin on American streets.

It was a complex case, run out of the local Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that had DEA and FBI investigators tracking leads from Pakistan to Canada to Thailand, to the United Arab Emirates, through England, and to the east and west coasts of the United States. It unraveled elaborate money laundering schemes through "hawala" transactions (an underground, paperless banking system of trusted brokers who oversee the transfer of money from one country to another without any documented money actually changing hands). It tracked heroin shipped in crates packed in soccer balls. It even featured exquisite jewels as part of the enterprise, including a 10-carat round diamond.

In the end, though, the full scheme was brought to light and nine of the 11 men indicted were arrested -- their operation dismantled. The 22-count indictment seeks $50 million in forfeitures.

U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, District of Maryland, summed it up perfectly: "We hope these indictments send a message to all those drug organizations that are supplying hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs in Maryland. We're going to reach out and get you. It doesn't matter that you're overseas. We're going to get you. You're going to jail right here."

Two fugitives remain: Omar Azizi, a 25-year-old Afghan national residing in Bangkok, is being sought by the Thai police. Mohammad Idris, a 70-year-old resident of Hamiltoin, Ontario, Canada, is being sought by Canadian authorities. If you have any information about either of these men, please contact your nearest law enforcement agency to report it.