Five drug traffickers lose appeal
ABU DHABI // Five convicted drug smugglers wanted by international law enforcers for trafficking and money laundering have failed in their appeal against their 25-year prison sentences in this country.
The men were convicted of having operated a complex web of bogus businesses and front companies to help move significant quantities of hashish from Pakistan to Europe.
They were arrested in 2006 in a police operation coined Octopus, when 2,500kg of hashish was discovered wrapped in towels in a crate at a port in Belgium on February 2.
Shahbaz Khan, 62, and Amir Azam, 38, were described by authorities as the masterminds behind the operation, which netted millions of dollars.
Khan, a Pakistani businessman who came to the UAE in 1996 and purchased the one-star City Hotel in Sharjah, was one of 19 men arrested after the drug shipment was intercepted in Antwerp, Belgium.
According to the US Treasury, Khan operated a “criminal and financial network” overseeing operations in six countries. A 2007 White House statement called him a “kingpin” and his assets were frozen.
Court documents show Khan set up shell companies in Dubai and Sharjah free zones. Among them was Shahbaz Khan for General Trading Company, which, according to the charges, he used to facilitate drug trafficking. His lawyer claimed Khan had no ties to the other men arrested and was not connected to the operation. Khan said he simply sent his earnings from businesses in the UAE to his bank accounts in Pakistan, but federal prosecutors say this money was laundered.
January 05. 2010 12:00AM UAE
Marten Youssef, Courts and Justice Reporter