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U.S. Sanctions Afghan Narcotics Network

An opium poppy field in Afghanistan
An opium poppy field in Afghanistan

On June 20th, the Treasury Department designated four Afghan men.

In an effort to deny major foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the United States’ financial system, and to eliminate all trade and transactions between the traffickers and U.S. companies and individuals, the U.S. Congress passed, in 1999, the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, better known as the Kingpin Act. It authorizes the U.S. President to take immediate action to limit access to the U.S. financial system by foreign individuals who have been determined to play a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.

Under the Kingpin Act, the President may identify as significant foreign narcotics traffickers, or “kingpins,” foreign entities as well as foreign individuals. The U.S. Department of the Treasury also has the authority to designate foreign individuals and entities that support or assist designated traffickers, or that are owned or controlled by such traffickers, or that act on their behalf.

Penalties for violating the Kingpin Act are stiff: individuals may be fined, go to prison for up to 10 years, or both. Entities may be fined up to $10 million, while officers or employees of such an entity, who knowingly violate the Kingpin Act, can be fined as much as $5 million and go to prison for up to 30 years.

On June 20th, the Treasury Department designated four Afghan men: Shah Mohammad Barakzai, Haji Baz Mohammad, Abdul "Doctor" Hadi and Mohammad Wali, for their roles in international narcotics trafficking.

Barakzai, the head of a drug trafficking organization based in Gereshk, Afghanistan, was convicted in his home country in August 2011 for trafficking drugs, and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Abdul Hadi used his pharmaceutical background to process opium for Barakzai’s network. Haji Baz Mohammad controlled the network’s opium cultivation and transportation. And Mohammad Wali was its chief financial conduit in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Treasury Department also noted that two exchange houses, New Ahmadi, Ltd. and the Mohammad Wali Money Exchange, are part of the network.

“Today’s designation builds on Afghan efforts to disrupt heroin trafficking from Afghanistan,” said Adam Szubin of the Department of the Treasury. “We will continue to work to expose the support mechanisms for this illicit activity, by targeting the individuals involved and their affiliated businesses and financial networks, including exchange houses.”