An Afghan citizen U.S. prosecutors alleged was once one of the world’s biggest heroin suppliers was convicted of drug distribution and narco-terrorism charges Tuesday in the District’s federal court.
Haji Bagcho, who is in his 60s and faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison at his sentencing in June, said nothing as jurors found him guilty of three of four charges related to heroin trafficking and support of the Taliban. He was acquitted of one heroin distribution charge.
It was Bagcho’s second trial on the charges; in November, jurors deadlocked on all counts.
Federal prosecutors Matthew Stiglitz and Marlon Cobar, who declined to comment after the verdict, alleged that Bagcho ran his organization from a palatial compound in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, near the border with Pakistan.
During a 2007 raid of his chemist’s neighboring house, Afghan and U.S. authorities recovered a ledger that documented $250 million in sales of 137 tons of heroin the previous year. An agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration testified that the sales represented nearly 20 percent of the world’s 2006 heroin supply.
Afghan informants purchased drugs from Bagcho’s organization and recorded incriminating calls with the dealer. One testified that Bagcho provided the Taliban with cash, supplies and weapons.
Bagcho was arrested in 2009 in Pakistan, turned over to Afghan authorities and then extradited to the United States. His son, Sucha Gul, has also been indicted in the case. NATO forces in Afghanistan arrested Gul in January, and he remains in military custody there. But that arrest does not appear related to his indictment, and prosecutors wrote in court papers that they did not know why he was arrested or his prospects for extradition.
Bagcho’s federal public defenders, Michelle Peterson and Shawn Moore, argued at trial that jurors should not trust the government informants because they profited from their work — one was paid more than $40,000 by the U.S. government.
They also said that it is not clear that Bagcho was aware his drugs were being shipped to the United States, a key element of the charges. Peterson said her office would review the verdict in light of a potential appeal.