LONDON: A British Pakistani businessman from Lahore has stressed that he is a victim of mistaken identity and the British government shouldn’t extradite him to America over allegations that he was a leader of a global drug production and distribution syndicate worth tens of millions of Pounds.
Referred to as the “Sultan” of drugs in court papers, Mohammad Asif Hafeez, 58, from North London, has told the court that his arrest by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in August this year is a plot against him – and that extraditing him to the United States to face charges of conspiring to import drugs will breach his human rights.
At the latest hearing Asif Hafeez appeared before the Westminster Magistrate’s Court via video link from the high security Wandsworth prison and defended himself against the charges.
His eldest son Muhammad Tauseef Asif, who is heir to his father’s businesses, has made a team of around two dozens defence lawyers for his father to fight against extradition bid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Tauseef Asif, who is also known as Tippu, has brought over to London lawyers from Pakistan, Mozambique, India and America to assist the London legal team in defence of his father. In total, around two dozen leading lawyers are now working on the case of businessman from Lahore.
Tauseef Asif’s defence for his father is that his father has no previous convictions in “any jurisdiction in the world” and that he has never been involved in any illegal activity. Appearing before the judge on video link, Asif Hafeez stressed his innocence and denied that he is head of a global drug production and distribution network, with links across Asia, Europe and North America that smuggled drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, or crystal meth, and ephedrine.
Tauseef Asif has instructed the lawyers that allegation that his father was the source of large quantities of heroin being smuggled into Kenya from Pakistan and Afghanistan is baseless and there is no evidence of that.
A lead defence team member told this correspondent that the whole family is devastated that Asif Hafeez is being implicated in a bogus case.
The prosecution alleges that Hafeez headed an international network involved in manufacturing and distributing large quantities of narcotics and that he agreed to import narcotics, including heroin and methamphetamine, into the US, dating back to at least 2013.
Hafeez has led a glamourous lifestyle in Britain and met Prince William and Prince Harry at many events, donating to the charities they supported. He is considered a close friend of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Hafeez and wife Shahina have been pictured rubbing shoulders with Princess Beatrice, Dave Clarke and Pippa Middleton.
The US alleges that Hafeez conspired with African crime family called the Akasha Organisation, led by brothers Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, for heroin production and smuggling and set up a special laboratory in Mozambique. It claimed that Indian national Goswami and his wife Mamta Kulkarni, a well-known Bollywood actress, were also part of Hafeez’s gang and ran a factory in India to manufacture ephedrine, the deadly drug’s active ingredient. It alleged that this drug from India was then due to be smuggled to Mozambique.
The US prosecution claims that in 2014, the DEA launched an undercover operation against the Sultan-Akasha network using its undercover agents posed as Colombian drug dealers wanting to buy heroin. In October 2014, Ibrahim Akasha delivered a kilogram of heroin to the DEA agents in the Kenyan city of Mombasa – destined for the US and then delivered 98 kilograms of heroin to the DEA agents. The US government claims that the agents were told that the heroin was the ‘Sultan’s drugs’ and they reportedly spoke to Hafeez by Skype video which was secretly recorded. Following that the Akasha brothers and two others – Gulam Hussein and Vicky Goswami – were arrested by Kenyan police and extradited to the US.
Hafeez Ali denies all charges.
Originally published in