The alleged leader of an international drug trafficking network is facing extradition to the US after being arrested last week at an address in north London.
Pakistani national Muhammad Asif Hafeez, who is thought to have been behind an 18-tonne shipment of ephedrine that was intercepted by law enforcement officers in India, was detained as a result of a joint investigation conducted by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The NCA said communications between Hafeez and other members of his network revealed that the drug kingpin was referred to as “the Sultan”.
Hafeez, who stands accused of being a senior member of a smuggling gang that was responsible for distributing tonnes of heroin and other drugs across Europe, North America and Asia, is wanted in the US on suspicion of conspiring to import drugs.
The network Hafeez headed up is also said to have been involved with the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.
During a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week, prosecutors claimed Hafeez had been operating as a high-end drug smuggler since 1993, and should be extradited to the US where he is wanted in connection with the sale of a large amount of heroin to undercover DEA agents in 2014.
Defending, Russell Nicholson said Hafeez believed he was the victim of mistaken identity.
Hafeez was denied bail and will next appear before the court via videolink on 1 September.
The NCA and the DEA began to investigate Hafeez after he was identified as the source of large quantities of heroin being smuggled into Kenya from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
US prosecutors allege that Hafeez acted as a heroin supplier to the “Akasha Organisation”, a Kenyan organised crime family that was at one stage responsible for the production and distribution of tonnes of drugs throughout Africa.
“From Kenya and Mozambique to London and New York, Hafeez’s alleged drug operation saw no borders or boundaries — until now,” said Joon Kim, a Manhattan prosecutor.
“Thanks to the unwavering commitment of the DEA…, the ‘Sultan’ has been caught and will have to face American narcotics charges.”
Commenting on Hafeez’s detention, NCA branch commander Martin Huxley said: “This is a hugely significant arrest of a man suspected of being the head of a global drug production and distribution network, with links across Asia, Europe and North America.
“Because of the scale of the criminality alleged here, this is an international investigation and the NCA has worked extremely closely with our partners in the US and UK.
“The organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking at this level fuel violence and exploitation at every step, from the locations overseas where drugs are farmed and produced right through to the dealers on UK street corners.”