NEW YORK -- Federal authorities said Tuesday they've found fresh evidence of the growing cooperation between the drug trade and terrorists in a probe of two major overseas networks of narcotics dealers.
The investigations resulted in the arrests of four men, including one who agreed to support the Taliban in Afghanistan with revenues from the drug trade, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference.
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"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," he said. "As crime goes global, the long arm of the law has to get even longer."
To infiltrate the networks, the Drug Enforcement Administration utilized DEA sources posing as links to the Taliban and Hezbollah.
Derek Maltz, special agent in charge of the DEA Special Operations Division, said the probe was a response to the growing realization that drug dealers were funding terrorism. He estimated that 50 percent of foreign terrorist organizations are involved in some aspect of the drug trade.
He said income from drugs helps the terrorist groups buy weapons and explosives and pay off corrupt governments, besides funding expenses such as travel.
In one case, authorities announced the arrest of Taza Gul Alizai. An indictment accused him of selling about 5 kilograms of heroin in May 2008 to a DEA source who posed two years later as a Taliban representative when Taza Gul agreed to arrange the sale of six AK-47 assault rifles and an additional 10 kilograms of heroin.
The indictment said a co-conspirator of Taza Gul told the DEA source that heroin laboratories in Afghanistan are under Taliban protection.
In the other prosecution that involved meetings in Turkey, Romania and Greece, DEA sources arranged to import hundreds of kilograms of high-quality heroin into the United States, telling their targets that they would use proceeds of the drug deals to buy weapons for Hezbollah, an indictment said.
Two of three men charged in that probe agreed since February to buy military-grade weapons from the DEA sources so that they could be provided to Hezbollah, the indictment said, citing meetings in Romania, Cyprus, Malaysia and elsewhere.
Authorities said the men signed a written agreement in Malaysia last month to buy 48 American-made Stinger missiles, 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 1,000 handguns, among other weapons, for $9.5 million.
Those arrested in the probe on conspiracy and weapons charges were identified as Siavosh Henareh, Bachar Wehbe and Cetin Aksu.
Henareh and Aksu were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, on Monday. According to Interpol notices Monday, Wehbe and Taza Gul were detained in the Maldives; both were transferred to DEA custody and brought to New York, where they awaited their first court appearances Tuesday.
All four men face various narcotics and conspiracy charges that carry the potential for a sentence of life in prison. It was not immediately clear who will represent the men in the United States.