Pakistani drug kingpin pleads guilty in Manhattan

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Department of Justice seal. (Photo: justice.gov)

Shahbaz Khan, a Pakistani drug kingpin, who conspired to send tens of thousands of kilograms of heroin to the United States for distribution in New York City pleaded guilty May 31, in a Manhattan federal court.

Kahn was taken into custody by Liberian authorities on December 1, 2016, and expelled to the United States later that same day based on a pending Complaint in this District.  He pled guilty today to a Superseding Indictment in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“Shahbaz Khan boasted to an undercover officer about his ability to smuggle drugs anywhere in the world without detection.  The DEA put the lie to that boast,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman is quoted saying in the press release.

The 70-year old Khan pled guilty to one count of conspiring to import one kilogram and more of heroin into the United States, and to one count of attempting to distribute one kilogram and more of heroin, knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.  Sentencing is scheduled for October 9, 2018, before Judge Schofield.

According to prosecutors, Khan led a massive and sophisticated heroin network based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the vast majority of drug trafficking proceeds have historically been used to finance terrorist insurgencies against the U.S. and global allies of the U.S., investigators said.  “He agreed to send huge amounts of deadly drugs to American streets and neighborhoods, which would have fueled the current opioid epidemic and facilitated addiction and abuse by supplying huge amounts of heroin to New York and nationwide,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Donovan.

According to the, Complaint, the Superseding Indictment, statements made during the plea proceeding, and other filings in this case, Khan was the leader of a drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”) based in Afghanistan and Pakistan that produced and distributed massive quantities of heroin around the world.  In 2007, Khan was designated a Narcotics Kingpin under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by then-president George W. Bush.  Between approximately August 2016 and October 2016, Khan conspired to send tens of thousands of kilograms of heroin hidden in maritime shipping containers and air cargo shipments to New York City.

Beginning in August 2016, Khan began communicating in a series of telephone calls and in-person meetings in countries in Southwest Asia with individuals whom he believed were heroin traffickers interested in purchasing kilogram quantities of heroin for importation into the United States.  Those individuals were, in fact, working at the U.S.Drug Enforcement Agency’s direction, and included an undercover law enforcement officer (the “UC”).

In late September 2016, Khan traveled to a country in Southwest Asia where he met with the UC and others.  During the meeting, Khan agreed to provide the UC with an initial shipment of five kilograms of heroin for importation into the United States.  Khan told the UC that, once the five kilograms of heroin successfully arrived in New York City, he would begin supplying the UC with larger quantities of heroin on a regular basis, including up to 10,000 kilograms of heroin at a time.  Khan assured the UC that the heroin he would provide was 100% pure and boasted of his ability to supply huge amounts as had never been done before.

In early October 2016, one of Khan’s employees, acting at his direction, delivered the five-kilogram initial shipment of heroin in the same country in Southwest Asia.  Through a series of recorded telephone calls, Khan confirmed with the UC that the heroin his employee had provided was Khan’s, that the heroin was to be transported to New York City, and that Khan would be paid for the heroin once it arrived in the United States.

In December 2016, Khan traveled with the UC to Liberia to inspect a warehouse that could serve as a transshipment point for maritime heroin shipments between Pakistan and New York.  He was arrested by Liberian authorities when he arrived in Liberia and expelled to the United States.