Seven defendants have been charged by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan with conspiring to aid the Taliban by helping with heroin trafficking, a Department of Justice press release said.
Five of the defendants—Maroun Saade, Walid Nasr, Francis Sourou Ahissou, Cornielle Dato, and Martin Raouf Bouraima—were arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, last week and are in the custody of the United States. The remaining two defendants—Alwar Pouryan and Oded Orbach—were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, and are awaiting extradition to the United States. All of the defendants were charged in an indictment except Orbach, who was charged in a complaint.
The indictment charges the defendants were part of a narco-terrorism conspiracy that involved moving significant quantities of Taliban-owned heroin through West Africa. Ultimately, it would be sold for profit to customers in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition, Saade and Pouryan, who are Americans citizens, are charged with attempting to sell surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and other lethal weapons to the Taliban. Those weapons were to be used to defend Taliban-run heroin laboratories against a U.S. attack in Afghanistan.
During meetings with Drug Enforcement Agency informants last summer in the West African countries of Benin and Ghana, defendants Saade, Nasr, Dato, and Bouraima agreed to receive and store several tons of Taliban-owned heroin in Benin, then they arranged to transport it to Ghana for shipment to America. In meetings with DEA confidential sources posing as Taliban members last October in Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania, Saade, Pouryan, and Orbach agreed to sell weapons, including SAMs, anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, AK-47s, and M-16s, to the Taliban for use against the United States. Pouryan was described in one of the meetings by Saade as weapons trafficker with ties to the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara showcased the arrests as an example of the growing nexus between international terrorist groups and criminal networks. "This alleged effort to arm and enrich the Taliban is the latest example of the dangers of an inter-connected world in which terrorists and drug runners can link up across continents to harm Americans," Bharara said.