LAWFUEL – The US Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United Stat…

LAWFUEL – The US Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ALI AWAD, ABDI EMIL MOGE, and ABDULLAHI HUSSEIN — three members of an international khat trafficking organization — were convicted late yesterday by a jury in Manhattan federal court, on narcotics charges relating to khat, an African plant containing a controlled substance,
cathinone. AWAD and MOGE were convicted of conspiring to import
and distribute khat, and HUSSEIN was convicted of conspiring to
distribute khat. MOGE was also convicted of conspiring to
launder the cash proceeds of khat distribution.

A fourth defendant, ABDI NUR DAHIR, was acquitted of narcotics and money
laundering charges. According to the evidence at trial:
AWAD and MOGE were among the leaders of an
international network which spanned from the Horn of Africa,
where khat plants are grown, through Western Europe, to New York
City. From New York, the khat plants were distributed throughout
the United States and ultimately sold to users in cities -2-
including Minneapolis, Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio; Portland,
Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Seattle,
Washington; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

The criminal network imported multiple shipments of
khat every week, with an aggregate weight in the tons. The
defendants imported khat in express mail packages that were
falsely described as containing “documents” or “children’s toys,”
or by using couriers who carried khat into the United States by
air, among other methods. The network operated from the early
part of 2005 until the coordinated, nationwide arrests of
approximately forty members of the organization in July and
August 2006. In a post-arrest statement that was introduced at
trial, AWAD compared the khat trade to cocaine trafficking, and
lamented that khat had devastated Somalia, as well as Somali
communities within the United States.

The evidence at trial also showed that MOGE laundered
hundreds of thousands of dollars generated from the network’s
illegal khat sales. MOGE had been involved in the illegal khat
trade for at least seven years, predominantly by paying Western
European couriers to smuggle suitcases filled with khat on
commercial flights from London to the United States. MOGE’s
illegal business generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in
illicit cash, which was laundered through “hawalas” – informal
money remitting networks commonly used in parts of Africa and the
Middle East. MOGE had no legitimate source of income, but
purchased an expensive home, a BMW, and other luxury items, while
sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to his khat suppliers in
Europe.

The successful prosecution was the result of a
coordinated, nationwide investigation led by the Office’s
International Narcotics Trafficking Unit, and agents and officers
of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the New
York City Police Department, the United States Internal Revenue
Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of
Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police,
the United States Marshals Service, the United States Secret
Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, working together as part of the Organized Crime Drug
Enforcement Strike Force. Mr. GARCIA thanked these officers for
their outstanding efforts, and acknowledged the critical
contributions of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the
Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nassau County Police
Department.

All three defendants face a maximum term of
imprisonment of twenty years on each count of conviction.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 5, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. before
the Honorable DENISE L. COTE, the United States District Judge
who presided over the trial.
Assistant United States Attorneys DANIEL L. STEIN, -4-
ANJAN SAHNI, and SEETHA RAMACHANDRAN are in charge of the
prosecution.

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