Kenya has handed over to the United States four men suspected of trying to smuggle large quantities of heroin more than two years after their arrest, police said on Tuesday.
Kenyan brothers Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha were arrested in November 2014, along with Indian national Vijaygiri Goswami and Pakistani citizen Gulam Hussein, at the end of a months-long sting by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which infiltrated the Mombasa-based organisation.
East Africa is emerging as a key staging post in the international heroin trade and US officials believe the Akashas are a crucial link in a supply chain that connects Afghanistan’s poppy fields with consumers in Europe and the US.
“They were deported last night on a private charter plane and we expect them to be arraigned in court in the US to stand trial for smuggling drugs,” said a senior Kenyan anti-narcotics officer on condition of anonymity.
Local media on Tuesday also reported their extradition.
According to a 21-page US indictment, Ibrahim Akasha personally delivered 99 kilos of heroin and two kilos of methamphetamine to undercover agents.
Meetings and conversations were recorded.
The US indictment describes Baktash Akasha as “the leader of an organised crime family in Kenya” and his younger brother Ibrahim as his “deputy”.
It also describes “Old Man” Hussein as “the head of a transportation network that distributes massive quantities of narcotics throughout the Middle East and Africa”, while “Vicky” Goswami “manages the Akasha Organisation’s drug business”.
The men are accused of conspiring to import pure “white crystal” heroin into the US at a knock-down price of around $10,000 (9,100 euros) a kilo.
US officials believe the Akasha brothers are continuing the business of their late father, also named Ibrahim, who was described in a secret 2006 US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks as a “drug baron”.
He was killed in Amsterdam – shot four times by a bicycle-riding assassin – in May 2000 as he took a morning stroll with his wife along Blood Street in the city’s Red Light District.
Over the last two years the extradition request has foundered in Kenya’s courts while the four suspects have been out on bail.
Defence lawyer Cliff Ombeta has insisted on his clients’ innocence and on Tuesday said he did not know the whereabouts of his clients.