MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal prosecutors unsealed indictments against four people accused of aiding Hezbollah and the Taliban in a case officials say shows the “nexus” between terrorism and the drug trade.
All three arrests occurred on Monday, the day President Barack Obama unveiled a Transnational Organized Crime initiative that Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said will significantly expand anti-narcotics operations in the criminal justice system.
“The long arm of the law has to get even longer,” Bharara told reporters.
Ironically, both announcements also fell on the same day the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution calling to end the War on Drugs.
According to the indictment, confidential sources within the Drug Enforcement Agency ensnared the three men in an elaborate sting operation trailing them across several countries.
Siavosh Henareh (aka Siyavesh Henareh aka the Doctor) met with DEA agents in Turkey, Romania and Greece last summer. The agents allegedly told Henareh that they wanted hundreds of kilograms of high-quality heroin to fund weapons for Hezbollah.
Henareh allegedly introduced the agents to Bachar Wehbe (aka Farez) and Cetin Aksu for later meetings in Romania, Cyprus and Malaysia.
On June 13, 2011, Wehbe and Aksu allegedly signed a $9.5 million contract to sell the agents 48 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47s and thousands of M4 rifles and Glock handguns. They were arrested in Bucharest, Romania.
In a separate indictment, prosecutors charge Taza Gul Alizai with selling 5 kilograms of heroin to a DEA confidential source in May 2008.
About two years later, Alizai allegedly arranged to sell six AK-47 and an additional 10 kilograms of heroin to the source, who said the items would go to the Taliban.
“Today’s indictments provide fresh evidence of what many of us have been seeing for some time: the growing nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism, a nexus that threatens to become a clear and present danger to our national security,” Bharara said in a statement.
A 2008 United Nations report said the Taliban receives much of its financing from the opium trade.
“With so much drug-related revenue, it is not surprising that the insurgent’s war machine has proven so resilient, despite the heavy pounding by Afghan and allied forces,” U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime director Antonio Maria Costa said in a statement at the time.
But drug reform proponents in the United States contend that current policy complicates the insurgencies abroad.
NAACP Criminal Justice Program director Robert Rooks told Courthouse News that the timing of a resolution to end the war on drugs was coincidental since the group’s procedures dictate July as the month to vote on resolutions.
While the NAACP could comment only on how U.S. anti-narcotics policies affect this country, Rooks said he hoped the group’s unprecedented stance will resonate internationally.
In a statement, Rooks blasted the national effects of the War on Drugs. “We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the 40 years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down,” he said. “The only thing we’ve accomplished is becoming the world’s largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960s.”
Bachar Wehbe appeared in magistrate court on Tuesday. Bharara announced that prosecutors will seek extradition of Henareh and Aksu, who were arrested in Romania.