Mumbai: Conviction of Kenyan drug baron in US set to impact ongoing Ephedrine drug bust trial

Mohamed Thaver
The Akasha brothers are the sons of Ibrahim Akasha, a billionaire and alleged drug baron who was gunned down in Amsterdam in 2000 after fleeing Kenya. (Representational Image)

AN ORDER passed by a US court, convicting Kenyan drug lord Baktash Akasha, is likely to impact an ongoing trial in the Thane sessions court over the Ephedrine drug bust case. Former actor Mamta Kulkarni and Vijaygiri Vicky Goswami were named as the accused along with 18 others in the matter.

A press release by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) stated that Baktash had on August 16 been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for conspiring to import and importing heroin and methamphetamine to the US, among other charges. The statement mentioned how Avon Lifesciences in Solapur was used to supply the Ephedrine used by Baktash s cartel, the Akasha Organisation, to manufacture methamphetamine in Africa.

The Akasha brothers are the sons of Ibrahim Akasha, a billionaire and alleged drug baron who was gunned down in Amsterdam in 2000 after fleeing Kenya. Ibrahim was sought in Kenya in connection with the seizure of several tonnes of hashish.

By early 2014, the defendants (Baktash and younger brother Ibrahim) and other members of the Akasha Organization started to work to import ton quantities of methaqualone precursor chemicals into Africa in order to fuel the illicit pills production in South Africa. The defendants used the proceeds of their methaqualone-related business to pursue other illegal ventures, including efforts to import ephedrine that was produced illegally by Avon Lifesciences in India, so that the Akasha Organization and others could manufacture methamphetamine in Africa, read the statement.

In connection with these methamphetamine-production efforts, the defendants aligned the Akasha Organization… and worked together to establish a methamphetamine-production facility in Mozambique. But the defendants… and other co-conspirators were forced to abandon their plan after law enforcement authorities seized approximately 18 tons of Ephedrine from an Avon Lifesciences factory in Solapur, India, including several tons of Ephedrine that the defendants… planned to use to manufacture methamphetamine in Mozambique, it added.

The law enforcement authorities referred to in the release is the Thane police, which had raided the Solapur premises in April 2016 while investigating a case in which two Nigerian nationals had been found with Ephedrine. The police had arrested 15 people, including the son of a former legislator in Gujarat. The Thane police named Mamta Kulkarni, her partner Vijaygiri Goswami and three others who were in Kenya at the time as wanted accused.

Goswami, along with the Akasha brothers and Pakistani national Gulam Hussein, were expelled by the Kenyan government on January 29, 2017, following which the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) brought them to the Southern District of New York for prosecution. Goswami became a prosecution witness and reportedly deposed against the Akasha brothers.

Baktash was also found guilty of conspiring to use and carrying machine guns and destructive devices and obstructing justice by paying bribes to Kenyan officials to avoid extradition to the United States. Ibrahim will be sentenced on November 8.

Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hire said, I have heard about the conviction of Akasha but am yet to get the order copy. If the order copy mentions the Avon Lifesciences link, I will move an application before the court to name the Akasha brothers as wanted accused in the case.

Talking about the trial in the Thane sessions court, Hire said, I had proposed charges against the 15 accused in the court last October. The charges are yet to be framed. Nothing has been heard from Kulkarni, who was in Kenya when Goswami and the others were extradited. Soon after the Thane police named her as an accused, she had issued a video claiming innocence.