Kenyan drug trafficker jailed in US


A US judge sentenced Kenyan drug trafficker Baktash Akasha to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to import heroin and methamphetamine and other crimes.

US District Judge Victor Marrero sentenced Akasha (42) in Manhattan. Prosecutors described Akasha as leader of a crime family called the Akasha organisation, a major smuggling operation connecting the poppy fields of Afghanistan to European and US cities. In his guilty plea Akasha admitted to bribing officials in Kenya.

His brother, Ibrahim Akasha, also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Baktash Akasha took control of the organisation after his father, Ibrahim Akasha, was killed in a shooting, according to authorities.

Prosecutors sought a life sentence for Baktash Akasha.

His lawyer George Goltzer asked for a sentence close to the legal minimum of 10 years. Goltzer argued a lighter sentence was warranted because Akasha was caught in a sting operation and never actually brought drugs into the United States.

“They want a life sentence without an American victim, without drugs in the United States,” he said during the hearing.

Before he was sentenced, Akasha apologised to friends and family as he asked the judge to show “mercy.”

Goltzer said after the sentence the judge was “thoughtful,” but declined to comment further.

The case stemmed from a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) probe into the Akasha organisation, leading to extradition of the brothers to the United States from Kenya in January 2017 along with Gulam Hussein, a Pakistani national charged with heading a drug transportation network, and Vijaygiri Goswami, an Indian businessman accused of managing the organisation’s drug business.

The defendants were arrested in Mombasa in November 2014 in a US-led sting operation, in which authorities said the Akasha organisation provided 99 kg of heroin and two kilogrammes of methamphetamine to DEA informants posing as drug traffickers.

A fifth defendant accused of working with the Akasha organisation, Muhammad Asif Hafeez, was arrested in London in August 2017. The United States requested his extradition.

The Akasha family has been involved in the drug trade for years, according to US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks. The Satao Project, a private company focused on fighting poaching, said the Akasha network was linked to around 30 tons of ivory seizures.