Plotters Sold Drugs, Guns to Supply Terrorists, U.S. Alleges

Three people were charged by federal prosecutors in New York with conspiring to sell heroin and buy weapons for Hezbollah, while a fourth separately was accused of scheming to sell drugs and guns for the Taliban.

Siavosh Henareh, 53, of Iran, and Cetin Aksu, whose age and nationality weren’t immediately available, are accused of conspiring to sell heroin to three confidential sources for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to an indictment. At least one of the sources was posing as an associate of Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997.

Aksu and a third person, Bachar Wehbe, 29, of Lebanon, are also accused of conspiring to buy surface-to-air missiles, rifles and handguns for Hezbollah from the confidential sources, according to the indictment, which was made public today.

Taza Gul Alizai, 48, of Afghanistan, was accused of selling assault rifles and heroin to a confidential source working for the DEA, prosecutors said in a separate indictment also made public today. The source pretended to be a broker of drugs and weapons and told Gul the profits would go to the Taliban, prosecutors said.

“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Drug Lord

The office has prosecuted international arms and drugs traffickers in the past, such as Haji Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug lord with close ties to the Taliban who was convicted of drug charges in September 2008 and sentenced to life in prison in May 2009.

Henareh, also known as “The Doctor,” had a series of meetings and phone calls with the confidential DEA sources starting in June 2010 in countries including Turkey, Romania and Greece, during which he agreed to arrange the shipment of hundreds of kilograms of heroin into the U.S., Bharara’s office said in the statement.

The confidential sources received a one-kilogram (2.2-pound) sample of heroin in Bucharest in April 2011 from an unidentified co-conspirator of Henareh’s in anticipation of a larger, multi-kilogram delivery, according to the statement.

Assault Rifles

The meetings with Henareh led the confidential sources to be introduced to Wehbe and Aksu, who agreed during meetings in Romania, Cyprus, Malaysia and other places starting in February 2011 to buy military-grade weapons for Hezbollah, including Stinger and Igla surface-to-air missiles, AK-47 and M4 assault rifles and ammunition, Bharara’s office said in the statement.

Gul is accused of selling about five kilograms of heroin to a DEA confidential source in May 2008 and arranging for the sale of six AK-47 assault rifles and 10 kilograms of heroin about two years later to the source, who was posing as a Taliban representative, Bharara’s office said in the statement.

Gul and the confidential source talked about the fact that the heroin was destined for the U.S. and that proceeds from the sale of the drug would go to the Taliban, along with the assault rifles, Bharara’s office said in the statement.

Henareh and Aksu were arrested in Bucharest on July 25 in coordination with Romanian authorities, while Wehbe and Gul were detained in the Maldives pursuant to a notice issued by Interpol on July 25, Bharara said in the statement.

Life in Prison

Henareh, Aksu and Wehbe are charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors said. Aksu and Wehbe are also charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles, which carries a minimum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Gul is charged with conspiracy to engage in narco-terrorism, engaging in narco-terrorism, conspiracy to distribute heroin and distribution of heroin. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on each charge if convicted.

Henareh and Aksu are still being detained in Romania, while Wehbe and Gul pleaded not guilty today in Manhattan and were held without bail pending court appearances, prosecutors said.

An attorney representing Wehbe, Philip L. Weinstein of the Federal Defenders of New York, declined to comment on the charges in an e-mail.

Alice Fontier, an attorney for Gul, declined to comment on the charges in a phone interview, saying it’s “extremely early in the case” and she needs more time to speak to her client, who was brought to the U.S. yesterday.

The cases are U.S. v. Henareh, 11-93, and U.S. v. Alizai, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).