Caryn Dolley – News24
Convicted druglord Vicky Goswami was synonymous with suspected high-level mandrax deals in the 1990s and was publicly associated with prominent local figures – most notably football boss Irvin Khoza.
Goswami fled South Africa in 1995 after the disappearance and suspected murder of Soweto socialite-cum-drug dealer Rocks Dlamini. He surfaced in Dubai but was arrested in 1997 and given a life sentence for dealing in mandrax.
In 2012, after his early release, Goswami disappeared from view only to be rearrested two years later alongside members of the notorious Akasha brothers drug family in Kenya, from where he was extradited to stand trial in the United States.
It has since emerged that Goswami turned state witness – bad news for his local criminal associates. What he has revealed so far places South Africa at the centre of a sensational story of murder, money-laundering and global drug dealing.
Twelve tons of chemicals were delivered for mandrax production in South Africa and at least two assassinations carried out as one of the world’s more powerful international cartels tried to maintain its grip on the local drug trade.
Convicted drug dealer Vijaygiri “Vicky” Goswami has made these and other startling claims in a United States court.
Originally from India, Goswami operated and sometimes based himself in South Africa in the early to mid-1990s.
Much more recently, in 2017, he was extradited from Kenya to the US for drug crimes. He subsequently turned state witness and has been singing about drug-dealing, money laundering and murder stretching across three decades and around the globe.
He has testified that he has told the US government about his every criminal deed stretching back to 1993, when he was active in South Africa; something that will likely rattle his past and present associates.
In April, Vrye Weekblad reported that in sealed grand jury testimony, Goswami had implicated the Gupta family in alleged money laundering on behalf of Pakistani Muhammad Asif Hafeez, 60, known to Goswami as The Sultan.
AmaBhungane could not independently confirm this claim.
The US government has alleged that Goswami and Hafeez have a history of drug dealing together and that Goswami’s 1997 jailing in Dubai was “for his involvement in manufacturing and distributing methaqualone with Hafeez and others”.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
– v. –
BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA,
a/k/a “Baktash Akasha,” and
IBRAHIM AKASHA ABDALLA,
a/k/a “Ibrahim Akasha,”
14 Cr. 716 (VM)
THE GOVERNMENT’S PRE-HEARING SUBMISSION
GEOFFREY S. BERMAN
United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York
One Saint Andrew’s Plaza
New York, New York 10007
Emil J. Bove III
Jason A. Richman
Assistant United States Attorneys
Case 1:14-cr-00716-VM Document 179 Filed 07/25/19 Page 1 of 34
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT ………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
DISCUSSION ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5
I. Background: The Akasha Organization’s Historical Drug Trafficking ……………………….. 5
II. The Akashas’ International Drug Business ………………………………………………………………. 6
A. 2013: The Akashas Ask Goswami to Assist in Their Drug Business ………………………. 6
B. 2014: The Akashas Expand Their Abba Business ………………………………………………… 9
1. The Akashas Forge a Partnership with Chinese Abba Supplier Martin Hong ………….. 9
2. The Akashas Finance Mandrax Production Efforts in Zimbabwe ……………………………. 9
C. March 2014: The Akashas Ask Goswami to Assist in a U.S. Heroin Deal …………….. 10
D. May 2014: The Akashas and Goswami Negotiate with Heroin Suppliers ……………… 12
1. Goswami Approaches Hafeez to Supply Heroin ……………………………………………… 12
2. The Akashas Meet with Heroin Suppliers “Harriri” and Mohammed Nasser in
Tanzania ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 12
E. May 2014: The Akashas Expand their Ephedrine and Methamphetamine Drug
Business ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
1. Avon Life Sciences ……………………………………………………………………………………… 13
2. Minesh Patel ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14
F. September 2014: The Akashas Provide Rashid with a Kilogram Sample of
Methamphetamine ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 14
G. October 2014: The Akashas Provide Rashid with 99 Kilograms of Heroin and 1
Kilogram of Methamphetamine ……………………………………………………………………………….. 16
H. November 2014: The Akashas and Goswami Are Arrested on U.S. Charges and Bribe
Local Officials to Avoid Extradition ………………………………………………………………………… 17
III. The Akashas Continue Large-Scale Drug Trafficking Despite Their Arrests ………….. 18
IV. The Akashas’ Use of Guns and Violence to Protect their Drug Business ……………….. 19
A. The Akashas’ Use of Machineguns and Destructive Devices ……………………………….. 19
B. The Akashas’ Weapons Trafficking with Terrorists …………………………………………….. 21
C. The Akashas’ Threats, Kidnapping, and Assault of David Armstrong …………………… 22
D. The Akashas’ Armed Confrontation with Stanley Livondo ………………………………….. 23
E. The Akashas’ Murder of “Pinky” ……………………………………………………………………… 23
F. The Akashas Use of Kidnappings and Violence to Target the Associates of Drug Rival
Ali Punjani ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25
1. The Kidnapping and Assault of “Speedy” ………………………………………………………. 26
2. The Assault of Tony Sanghani ………………………………………………………………………. 26
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3. 2006 New Year’s Eve Night Club Altercation With Punjani’s Associates ………….. 27
G. The Akashas’ Extortion Business ……………………………………………………………………… 21
H. Baktash’s Torture of His Son and Murder of One of His Wives ……………………………. 29
V. The Akashas’ Extensive Drug Trafficking and Violence Are Relevant to Sentencing …. 29
CONCLUSION …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 31
Case 1:14-cr-00716-VM Document 179 Filed 07/25/19 Page 3 of 34
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
– v. –
BAKTASH AKASHA ABDALLA,
a/k/a “Baktash Akasha,” and
IBRAHIM AKASHA ABDALLA,
a/k/a “Ibrahim Akasha,” and
14 Cr. 716 (VM)
The Government respectfully submits this memorandum in advance of the July 25, 2019
Fatico hearing (the “Hearing”) being conducted in connection with the sentencings of Baktash and
Ibrahim Akasha (the “Akashas”). 1 The Akashas concede that based on their attempt to import
staggering quantities of drugs into the United States, their Organization’s use of guns and violence,
and their obstruction of justice, the applicable sentence under the United States Sentencing
Guidelines is life imprisonment. Seeking to avoid such a sentence, however, the Akashas dispute
the extent of their historical drug trafficking and their involvement in acts of violence, including
the 2014 murder of a drug trafficker known as “Pinky”—all of which is undoubtedly relevant to
this Court’s determination of the appropriate sentences in this case. Through evidence presented
at the Hearing and attached to this submission, the Government will prove the full extent of the
Akashas’ relevant conduct, and will expose their current efforts to mislead this Court.
The Government respectfully requests that the Court accept this submission under seal
temporarily. The Government will file this brief publicly following the Hearing.
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Following the Hearing, the Court should reject Ibrahim’s objections to the Presentence
Investigation Report (the “PSR”) and Baktash’s recent claim that he was not involved in the
murder of Pinky. All of the facts presented at the Hearing, and in the attached exhibits, should be
considered and adopted by the Court in imposing sentence. To the extent the Court is prepared to
proceed to sentencing Baktash on July 26, 2019, as scheduled, the Court should impose a sentence
of life imprisonment.
For decades, the Akashas operated an international drug business of massive proportions,
distributing large quantities of mandrax,
cocaine, hashish, heroin, and ephedrine (a
methamphetamine precursor), among other substances, to locations all over the world. The
Akashas protected their lucrative drug business with violence, murder, and related threats, doing
whatever was necessary to advance the criminal empire they inherited from their father after he
was murdered in 2000.
In 2014, as part of a sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (the “DEA”),
the Akashas were given the opportunity to import mass quantities of heroin and methamphetamine
into the United States. They jumped at the chance. Ultimately, the Akashas supplied confidential
sources working at the direction of the DEA with 99 kilograms of heroin and 2 kilograms of
methamphetamine. At the time of their arrest, the Akashas had another 500 kilograms of heroin
en route from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region toward Kenya for intended distribution in the
United States. While the Akashas pled guilty to their involvement in this drug importation
“Mandrax” is a common name for methaqualone—a schedule I controlled substance.
Methaqualone is also commonly referred to in the United States as “quaaludes.”
Case 1:14-cr-00716-VM Document 179 Filed 07/25/19 Page 5 of 34
conspiracy, they have now denied their participation in acts of brutal violence, and sought to
minimize the extent of their historical drug operations.
Baktash has, in particular, falsely denied his involvement in the 2014 murder of a drug
trafficker named Pinky. (Dkt. No. 169, at 3 & n.4). Ibrahim has likewise falsely denied his
involvement in Pinky’s murder and has made the extraordinary claim that he did not participate in
any assaults, violence, or threats of violence. (Ibrahim Akasha PSR, at 31-32). Despite having
pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to use and possess machineguns and destructive
devices in furtherance of this drug business, Ibrahim also now claims that he, personally, only
possessed a gun in connection with his purported legitimate business dealings (id. at 31), and that
he never brandished his gun to threaten any of the Akashas’ rivals (id. at 31-32). More than just
denying his involvement in violence, Ibrahim has sought to minimize his involvement in the
Akashas’ vast drug-trafficking enterprise—falsely claiming, for example, that he had no
involvement in the Akashas’ sourcing and distribution of narcotics precursor chemicals from
China and India, and that he had no relationship with the Akashas’ drug-trafficking partners. (Id.
The evidence at the Hearing will lay bare the Akashas’ bold efforts to mislead this Court.
The Government will present the testimony of Vicky Goswami—the Akashas’ trusted co-
conspirator who is now a cooperating witness for the Government. Goswami is uniquely situated
to provide the Court with an inside perspective of this crime family’s illegal businesses. He had a
decades-long criminal relationship with the Akashas. In 2013, after he was released from a long
prison sentence in Dubai, Goswami moved to Kenya and worked in partnership with Baktash,
Ibrahim, and others on their drug ventures and violence. Goswami is expected to detail for the
Court the Akashas’ involvement in, among other things, the murder of Pinky; the kidnapping and
Case 1:14-cr-00716-VM Document 179 Filed 07/25/19 Page 6 of 34
assault of rival drug trafficker David Armstrong; and violent attacks on associates of another rival
drug trafficker Ali Punjani, including the kidnapping of an individual known as “Speedy” and the
near-fatal assault of Tony Sanghani. Goswami will also describe the Akashas’ extensive use and
possession of firearms, including handguns, machineguns, and grenades, as well as the Akashas’
gun-trafficking operations with terrorist group al Shabaab. Goswami is further expected to
describe how the Akashas used violence and guns as part of an illegal extortion business in Kenya.
Goswami is also expected to testify about Baktash’s violent behavior outside of his illegal
businesses, including torturing one of his children, beating his current wife, and murdering his
Although the Akashas have attacked Goswami’s reliability in prehearing submissions, his
testimony is corroborated by extensive evidence. As detailed below, the Akashas confirmed their
prolific drug trafficking and brutal acts of violence—with pride—in recorded statements to DEA
confidential sources in 2014. Their international drug operations are further evidenced in
documents seized from the Akashas’ fortified base of operations at Baktash’s home in Mombasa.
And the Akashas’ use of guns and violence is additionally corroborated by photographs seized
from their phones and firearms seized from Baktash’s home. Ultimately, in stark contrast to the
defendants’ blatant misrepresentations to the Court, the evidence will show that the defendants
were notorious drug traffickers who engaged in kidnappings, assaults, and murder to maintain
power over the South African drug market.
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I. Background: The Akasha Organization’s Historical Drug Trafficking
Goswami first came into contact with the Akasha family in the late 1980s, when he worked
with Baktash, Baktash’s father—Ibrahim Abdalla Akasha (“Abdalla”)—and another drug
trafficker named Muhammad Asif Hafeez to distribute internationally tons of hashish and
mandrax. 3 In 2000, Abdalla was murdered in Amsterdam in connection with a drug-debt dispute.
Baktash later proudly told Goswami that he avenged his father’s death by having his father’s
assassin murdered on the same street where Abdalla was killed, exactly one year after his death.
Baktash confirmed the same during a recorded meeting with a DEA confidential source on March
29, 2014. During the recorded meeting, Baktash described his father’s death in Amsterdam and
how, after one year, Baktash went to Amsterdam to find his father’s assassin, who Baktash caught
in the “same place . . . [on] the street” (GX 417-T, at 1). 4
The recorded meetings from the DEA’s investigation of the Akasha crime family are
replete with other confirmations of their long history in drug trafficking. During a September 19,
2014 meeting, for example, Baktash described his historical drug trafficking with his father,
Goswami, and Hafeez. (GX 404-T, at 2-3). Baktash described how Hafeez and Goswami used to
send “tons” to “Europe,” and how Baktash and his father “worked with him.” (Id.). Baktash’s
brother (and drug trafficking associate), Faisal, may have put it best during a March 28, 2014
meeting when he described the importance of the Akasha name in Kenya: “whoever comes, and
3 Hafeez is charged before this Court in Indictment S9 14 Cr. 716 and is in custody in London
pending an extradition submitted by the Government.
4 The Arabic language translations attached to this brief were created by Certified Interpreter Ihab
M. Ali through translation services company Global Arena Inc. Transcriptions of English
language conversations were created by staff at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The underlying
recordings are also provided for the Court’s reference.
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wherever they come from, [when they] say [our] name, they know we are drug dealers . . . .
[m]eaning we work in drugs.” (GX 400-T, at 16).
II. The Akashas’ International Drug Business
A. 2013: The Akashas Ask Goswami to Assist in Their Drug Business
In December 2012, Goswami completed a 15-year prison sentence in Dubai for his
involvement in manufacturing and distributing methaqualone with Hafeez and others. Goswami
arrived in Kenya in early 2013 and was soon thereafter approached by Baktash, Ibrahim, and
Faisal. The Akashas sought assistance from Goswami in distributing a mandrax precursor
chemical, which they referred to as “abba.” The Akashas explained to Goswami that they had
access to 10 tons of abba that had been seized by Kenyan law enforcement, and which was
provided to the Akashas on a rolling basis after they bribed the officials responsible for guarding
the abba stockpile. The original owner of the abba was another drug trafficker named David
Armstrong, with whom Baktash had partnered previously to distribute mandrax. At the time the
Akashas approached Goswami, Baktash was overseeing the distribution of this abba stockpile, and
Ibrahim was managing the logistics of transporting the abba and bribing Kenyan officials for
Around this time in early 2013, the Akashas made clear to Goswami that distribution of
Armstrong’s seized abba was far from their only illegal business. Ibrahim detailed for Goswami
his ongoing involvement in the distribution of cocaine, ephedrine, and mandrax. Ibrahim said that
he was purchasing kilogram quantities of cocaine from Tanzania and distributing it to street users
in Malindi, Kenya, making a profit of approximately $60,000 to $70,000 per kilogram. Ibrahim
told Goswami that he was also bribing government employees at Kenyan government laboratories
and warehouses in exchange for ephedrine (which could be used to manufacture
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methamphetamine). Ibrahim told Goswami that he had been involved in the distribution of
ephedrine for approximately 7 or 8 years, and that he had made hundreds of thousands of dollars
in profit. Ibrahim also explained to Goswami that he was involved in purchasing mandrax from
suppliers in Mombasa and Nairobi, and transporting that mandrax to South Africa, where it
commanded a higher price. Finally, Ibrahim told Goswami that when he was in South Africa
delivering mandrax, Ibrahim would purchase stolen cars that he sold in Kenya.
Goswami’s anticipated testimony regarding Ibrahim’s long-term involvement in extensive
drug-trafficking operations is confirmed by Ibrahim’s own words. During a September 21, 2014
recorded meeting with a DEA confidential source, Ibrahim described paying bribes to steal “tons
and tons” of ephedrine from a government laboratory in Nairobi (GX 405-T, at 9):
Ibrahim went on to describe transporting mandrax (which he referred to as “Vicky’s stuff” because
Goswami specialized in mandrax distribution) and traveling from South Africa to Kenya in a
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“stolen car.” (GX 405-T, at 10). Photographs seized from Ibrahim’s phone and Facebook account
further demonstrate the large amounts of cash he was making through these illegal businesses (see
GX 500-H4 through GX 500-H8 and GX 600-01):
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B. 2014: The Akashas Expand Their Abba Business
1. The Akashas Forge a Partnership with Chinese Abba Supplier Martin Hong
In late 2013, Goswami accepted the Akashas’ proposal and began to help them distribute
the abba that the Akashas accessed through their corrupt connections to Kenya officials to large-
scale manufactures of mandrax in South Africa. From there, the Akashas and Goswami expanded
their illegal distribution of abba by seeking out other suppliers. Baktash obtained contact
information for an abba supplier in China named Martin Hong, who had previously supplied abba
to David Armstrong. In approximately June or July of 2014, Baktash arranged for Hong to travel
from China to Mombasa to meet with the Akashas and Goswami. The Akashas and Goswami
proposed to Hong that Hong supply them with abba at a rate of $40,000 per ton, plus an additional
$30,000 per ton if Hong agreed to an exclusive partnership with the Akasha Organization. At the
initial meeting, Hong was hesitant to commit to this exclusive partnership. The Akashas and
Goswami decided to have Ibrahim host Hong for a day, taking him to a national park and other
tourist attractions in hopes of persuading him to accept their offer. At the end of the day, Ibrahim
reported back to Baktash and Goswami that Hong was inclined to accept their offer, and the next
day Hong did. Over the next three years—including while the Akashas were bailed pending the
U.S. extradition request that they were actively obstructing—Hong provided the Akasha
Organization with approximately 10 tons of abba. Notably, in a search of Baktash’s home
following his arrest in this case, law enforcement seized documents reflecting abba sent by Hong.
(See, e.g., GX 209 (shipping record for importation of abba from China to Johannesburg)).
2. The Akashas Finance Mandrax Production Efforts in Zimbabwe
At around the same time as their negotiations with Hong, the Akashas invested in a
mandrax manufacturing operation in Zimbabwe. The Akashas and Goswami were approached by
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two narcotics transporters, Daryl and Clement, who were seeking financing for an operation
through which a mandrax-precursor chemical called anthranilic acid would be transported from
India to Zimbabwe, where it would be manufactured into mandrax tablets. Daryl and Clement
needed money to bribe local officials to obtain permits to import multi-ton shipments of anthranilic
acid into Zimbabwe. Excited by the prospect of this operation, Baktash immediately invested—
providing Daryl and Clement with approximately $30,000 in cash that he had on-hand at his
residence. Through bribes, Daryl and Clement obtained the necessary authorizations—
documentation of which was again seized from Baktash’s residence following his arrest. (GX 210,
C. March 2014: The Akashas Ask Goswami to Assist in a U.S. Heroin Deal
In approximately March 2014, Baktash and Ibrahim made a new proposal to Goswami.
Baktash had met an individual named “Rashid,” whom Baktash believed represented a Colombian
drug cartel but was in fact a confidential source working for the DEA. Baktash and Ibrahim had
enthusiastically agreed to supply Rashid large quantities of heroin for importation into the United
States, and sought Goswami’s assistance in this deal. Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami met at a
Chinese restaurant to discuss the transaction, and the tens of millions of dollars they expected in
profit. Goswami agreed to assist, and several weeks later Rashid traveled to Kenya for further
negotiations. On April 25, 2014, Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami and others met with Rashid at an
Case 1:14-cr-00716-VM Document 179 Filed 07/25/19 Page 13 of 34
apartment in Nairobi, where they discussed the details of this heroin importation scheme (GX 153-
Prior to the April 25 meeting, Baktash indicated that he wanted to introduce Rashid via a
Skype call to Abdul Syed, one of Baktash’s sources of heroin in Afghanistan. Goswami observed
Ibrahim purchase the tablet for the call, and Goswami, Baktash, and Ibrahim all discussed the
purpose of the call. During the call, Baktash emphasized to Syed that the heroin must be the
“number one quality” because it is “going to America.” (GX 401-T, at 4). Baktash exclaimed
“we are entering the great country” (id. at 12), and that they would all reap “huge profits” (id. at
14). Baktash invited Syed to bring his associates to Mombasa so they would see how Baktash was
“living like a lion,” and would know he is a serious trafficker. (Id. at 18). Syed advised Baktash
that he had 420 kilograms of heroin currently available, and they agreed to speak further soon. (Id.
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D. May 2014: The Akashas and Goswami Negotiate with Heroin Suppliers
1. Goswami Approaches Hafeez to Supply Heroin
At around the same time that Baktash was negotiating with Abdul Syed about providing
the U.S.-destined heroin, Goswami reached out to Hafeez, who, as described above, had a long
history of drug trafficking with Goswami and the Akasha family. Hafeez ultimately agreed to
assist in the U.S. heroin transaction and, as explained below, supplied the 99 kilograms of heroin
that was seized by the DEA.
2. The Akashas Meet with Heroin Suppliers “Harriri” and Mohammed Nasser in Tanzania
While negotiations continued with Syed and Hafeez, Baktash and Ibrahim continued to
scout out additional sources of heroin for the U.S.-deal. In early May 2014, Baktash and Ibrahim
traveled to Tanzania to meet with heroin suppliers. They ultimately met with two suppliers—
“Harriri” and Mohammed Nasser—and reported back to Goswami following the meetings.
Baktash and Ibrahim described to Goswami Nasser’s connections within the Tanzanian
government that could be useful in their drug operations, and told Goswami about how Nasser
showed the Akashas samples of heroin during this meeting. Notably, records seized from Baktash
and Ibrahim’s phones show contact information for a “Hariri TZ” (Hariri Tanzania). (GX500-C
(Ibrahim’s Phone), GX504-B (Baktash’s Phone)).
Upon returning from Tanzania, Ibrahim described in a recorded call to Rashid how he went
and “inspected” a heroin supplier’s inventory. (GX 405-T, at 2). Ibrahim described how he
counted and viewed the inventory, and assured Rashid that Rashid would be “pleased” with the
product. (Id.). Ibrahim described Nasser as an “old friend” of Baktash with contacts inside
“security”—an apparent reference to Nasser’s relationships in the Tanzanian government. (Id.).
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Baktash later described to Rashid in a recorded call how he received overwhelming interest
from heroin suppliers, who were traveling from “Afghanistan and Pakistan” because “everyone
wants to do this business with me.” (GX 403-T, at 4). Baktash told Rashid that once Rashid
visited, he would see this interest and the suppliers would “salute” Rashid for doing business with
the “son of Akasha.” (Id.).
E. May 2014: The Akashas Expand their Ephedrine and Methamphetamine Drug
While negotiating this heroin importation scheme, the Akashas and Goswami also worked
to obtain and distribute large quantities of ephedrine, which they planned to sell on the black
market and also to manufacture into methamphetamine for distribution internationally.
1. Avon Life Sciences
In approximately May 2014, Goswami, Baktash, and Ibrahim attended a meeting at
Baktash’s home with an individual named Dr. Bipin Panchal, who offered, among other things, to
broker a relationship between the Akasha Organization and an Indian manufacturer of ephedrine
called Avon Lifesciences (also known as Avon Organics). The group discussed using laboratories
in Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania to manufacture the ephedrine into methamphetamine. In
pursuing this plan, Baktash set up a meeting with the Ugandan President’s sister-in-law to discuss
methods of illegally importing ephedrine into Uganda. Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, and Panchal
attended the meeting, at which the President’s sister-in-law offered to provide a license to import
the ephedrine, two tons at a time, in exchange for a percentage of the profits.
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2. Minesh Patel
At around the same time in May 2014, the Akashas and Goswami were also engaged in
discussions with a methamphetamine supplier named Minesh Patel—who was introduced to them
through one of Baktash’s drug associates. Ibrahim and Baktash ultimately coordinated with
Minesh to supply the methamphetamine that Ibrahim turned over to Rashid as part of the sting
operation described below.
F. September 2014: The Akashas Provide Rashid with a Kilogram Sample of
As the Akashas cultivated connections to ephedrine suppliers and worked toward being
able to manufacture methamphetamine in Africa, they offered to supply methamphetamine to
Rashid. The DEA took the Akashas up on that offer, directing Rashid to tell them that he was
interested in buying large quantities of methamphetamine to sell in the U.S. market. In a July 2,
2014 call, for example, Baktash offered to sell Rashid “10 tons every month” of methamphetamine.
(GX 403-T, at 5). Although monsoon season and religious observances delayed the completion
of the Akashas’ deal with Rashid in July and August 2014, progress resumed in September 2014,
when Rashid traveled to Mombasa to meet with Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami. During a
recorded meeting on September 21, 2014, Ibrahim advised Rashid that methamphetamine of the
“best quality” was ready for him. (GX 405-T, at 7). Ibrahim told Rashid that he was coordinating
with Minesh’s transporter (“Lali”) to pick up the methamphetamine. (Id.). The following day, on
September 22, 2014, Ibrahim brought Rashid and Faisal Akasha to Nairobi to retrieve the sample
from Lali (GX 152-B).
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Ibrahim tested the one-kilogram sample of methamphetamine at his apartment and then provided
it to Rashid (See GX 406-D (video recording)). In exchange, Rashid provided Ibrahim with
payment in marked bills (GX 156, 152-C).
The following day, September 23, 2014, Baktash made clear that this sample was intended
as a small example of the Akashas’ ability to provide massive quantities of methamphetamine for
importation into the United States. Baktash told Rashid that they were not interested in being
“peddlers” of one or two kilograms, and that Baktash was working on setting up a “cook,” i.e., a
chemist, to manufacture the methamphetamine at a laboratory. (GX 408-T, at 7). Baktash
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explained that from one ton of ephedrine, they would be able to produce “650 kilos to 700 kilos”
of methamphetamine. (Id. at 8).
G. October 2014: The Akashas Provide Rashid with 99 Kilograms of Heroin and 1
Kilogram of Methamphetamine
In September 2014, Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami continued to work on supplying
heroin to Rashid. The Akashas and Goswami sourced 99 kilograms of heroin from a 400-kilogram
stash in Tanzania that was controlled by Hafeez. The Akashas caused a one-kilogram sample of
heroin to be sent to Mombasa, which Ibrahim transported to Nairobi and provided to Rashid in
October 2014. In connection with this incident, Goswami observed Ibrahim, who was armed,
depart for Nairobi in a car with Baktash’s bodyguard and the kilogram of heroin. Ibrahim later
confirmed to Baktash and Goswami that he had successfully handed the sample to Rashid.
In November 2014, Ibrahim coordinated and executed the delivery of the remaining 98
kilograms of heroin to Rashid. On November 7, 2014, Rashid met with Ibrahim at his apartment,
where they counted and loaded the 98 kilograms of heroin into bags for Rashid. Ibrahim took
$25,000 from Rashid as partial payment for transportation costs related to the larger shipment.
Ibrahim also agreed to provide Rashid with five kilograms of methamphetamine the next day, and
was paid approximately $45,000 by Rashid for that purchase. The following day, Ibrahim
provided Rashid with another kilogram of methamphetamine. Rashid told Ibrahim he could not
wait for the remaining four kilograms, and so Ibrahim returned a portion of Rashid’s payment.
Ibrahim was arrested the next day, still in possession of $23,000 of the marked bills from Rashid.
The 98 kilogram delivery to Rashid (depicted below) was only a fraction of the heroin the
Akashas were prepared to provide Rashid. At the time of their arrest in November 2014, the
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Akashas and Goswami were coordinating a one-ton shipment of heroin to Tanzania for Rashid,
with 500 kilograms already loaded on a ship and en route from the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.
H. November 2014: The Akashas and Goswami Are Arrested on U.S. Charges and
Bribe Local Officials to Avoid Extradition
On November 9, 2014, Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, and co-defendant Gulam Hussein
were arrested on U.S. charges in connection with these heroin and methamphetamine importation
schemes. While the group was initially detained, they quickly devised a plan for release on bail
and obstruction of the U.S. prosecution. Using proceeds from their mandrax precursor business,
the defendants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to local officials, including
prosecutors, judges, politicians, and law enforcement. The defendants were successful in
obtaining bail and achieving years of delay in the extradition proceedings (ultimately the
defendants were expelled from Kenya in January 2017).
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III. The Akashas Continue Large-Scale Drug Trafficking Despite Their Arrests
The Akashas’ arrests did not slow their drug business. Once out on bail, the Akashas and
Goswami continued to purchase abba from China and distribute it to South Africa. They also
promptly resumed their efforts to secure a large source of ephedrine so they could produce
methamphetamine. In approximately April or May 2015, Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, and Bipin
Panchal, met again at Baktash’s residence to discuss sources of ephedrine. Panchal reiterated his
connection to Avon Lifesciences and also offered the Akashas and Goswami ton-quantities of abba
from China, which they accepted and later distributed in South Africa.
Following the spring 2015 meeting with Panchal, the Akashas and Goswami met with
senior Avon representatives at Baktash’s home in Mombasa. Baktash also invited to the meeting
his associate Nasser, who was a drug supplier in Tanzania (see supra page 5). The Akashas and
Goswami agreed to invest $100,000, for which they were supposed to receive 3.5 tons of
ephedrine. Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami hatched a plan to have the methamphetamine
manufactured at laboratories in Tanzania and Mozambique. Hafeez agreed to help make
arrangements for the laboratory in Mozambique, and Ibrahim agreed to oversee operations at the
The group agreed that the methamphetamine would be distributed all over the world,
including the United States. In early 2016, Baktash and Nasser coordinated the transport of a test
load of 100 kilograms of ephedrine by plane from India to Tanzania, which was later sold in South
Africa. Thereafter, in April 2016, Baktash—who was unable to travel himself in light of his bail
restrictions—sent his brother-in-law to India to provide Avon with the addresses for shipment of
the ephedrine to Tanzania and Mozambique. Baktash’s brother-in-law arrived, however, to find
that the factory had been raided by law enforcement the same day. The Avon factory was
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consequently shut down, and the Akashas’ Avon-related plans for manufacturing
methamphetamine were stalled.
IV. The Akashas’ Use of Guns and Violence to Protect their Drug Business
A. The Akashas’ Use of Machineguns and Destructive Devices
Working with the Akashas, Goswami regularly visited their operational base—Baktash’s
home in Mombasa—where Goswami observed armed security guards carrying pistols and AK-47
machineguns. Baktash also typically traveled with at least one security guard who was armed and
carried Baktash’s handgun for him in a bag. Ibrahim likewise was regularly armed with a 9mm
handgun. At the time of Baktash’s arrest, his residence was searched, and law enforcement
recovered, among other things, a 9mm pistol and over 50 rounds of ammunition, and a tactical
shotgun and 45 cartridges (see GX 105-A – 105-I):
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Ibrahim’s phones also contains extensive evidence of his use and possession of guns, including
the following photographs saved on his phone (see GX 500-I3, 500-G1 through 500G4, 505H-1,
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B. The Akashas’ Weapons Trafficking with Terrorists
The Akashas also trafficked weapons with members of the terrorist organization al
Ibrahim and Baktash each described to Goswami how Ibrahim was traveling to the area of
Kenya’s border with Somalia to purchase weapons from al Shabaab. Ibrahim and Baktash showed
Goswami stashes of the al Shabaab weapons at Baktash’s home—which included machineguns
and hand grenades. Baktash told Goswami that he worked with an Italian man, who brokered the
sale of the al Shabaab-supplied weapons to cargo-ship crews that docked in Mombasa.
Here, too, Goswami’s anticipated testimony regarding the Akashas’ weapons trafficking is
corroborated by recorded statements. During an April 26, 2014 recorded meeting with a DEA
5 On or about February 26, 2008, the United States Secretary of State designated al Shabaab as a
foreign terrorist organization, and it remains so designated today. Al Shabaab has used violent
means—including targeted assassinations of civilians and journalists, and the use of improvised
explosive devices, rockets, mortars, and automatic weapons—to, among other things, destabilize
the government of Somalia, suppress the Somali population, and force the withdrawal of foreign
troops in Somalia. Since al Shabaab’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in February
2008, it has made several public statements demonstrating its intent to harm U.S. interests. For
example, in or about April 2008, al Shabaab released a statement declaring a campaign against the
U.S. Similarly, after an al Shabaab member was killed in May 2008, al Shabaab leaders announced
that the mujahideen would “hunt the U.S. government.”
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confidential source, Baktash described working in “Somalia” “with guns,” and explained that he
had an “Italian” involved in the business who had relationships with “warlords.” (GX 418-T, at
C. The Akashas’ Threats, Kidnapping, and Assault of David Armstrong
When Goswami reconnected with the Akashas in 2013, David Armstrong, a drug associate
of the Akashas, was living with Baktash. Baktash and Armstrong had historically been drug-
trafficking allies, with Armstrong providing Baktash mandrax to sell, and Baktash assisting
Armstrong in protecting a drug-manufacturing laboratory that Baktash learned was the target of a
law enforcement investigation in Kenya. In late 2013, Armstrong—who was not a citizen in
Kenya—had run into immigration issues, and was hoping Baktash and his powerful family could
use their political connections to help him. Baktash tasked another brother, “Tinta,” with bribing
Kenyan politicians to assist Armstrong, and, at Baktash’s request, Goswami agreed to contribute
financially to those efforts. In exchange for his investment of approximately $200,000, Goswami
was promised 500,000 mandrax tablets from Armstrong’s factory. Armstrong also promised
Baktash 25% of his mandrax-manufacturing business in Congo in exchange for Baktash’s efforts.
In 2014, however, Armstrong became convinced that Baktash and Goswami were setting
him up with the immigration authorities. Armstrong fled Baktash’s home without paying him or
Goswami the promised returns. Moreover, one of Armstrong’s closest associates—a drug
transporter named “Pinky,” who also worked for the Akashas—called Baktash and told him that
Armstrong was seeking to have Goswami and Baktash killed. Within a few weeks, Baktash and
Goswami learned that Armstrong was in Nairobi, and they went to his hotel to confront him along
with Baktash’s armed bodyguard. At the hotel, Baktash and Goswami threatened Armstrong and
demanded that they be paid what they were owed. Fearing for his life, Armstrong agreed.
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The following morning, Ibrahim and several associates went back to Armstrong’s hotel
and kidnapped him. They brought him by force to Baktash’s secure compound in Mombasa. At
Baktash’s compound, the argument between Baktash and Armstrong escalated. Baktash pointed
his gun at Armstrong and threatened to kill him. After others intervened to prevent Baktash from
murdering Armstrong, Armstrong again agreed to pay his debts to Baktash and Goswami.
D. The Akashas’ Armed Confrontation with Stanley Livondo
Tensions escalated in the weeks after Ibrahim kidnapped Armstrong. Baktash began to
receive threatening calls and text messages from a local politician associated with Armstrong—
Stanley Livondo. Soon after, Livondo confronted Baktash at a shopping mall, and the two began
to fight. Ibrahim intervened, drew his gun, and threatened to kill Livondo. The sight of Ibrahim’s
gun caused panic in the shopping mall, and so Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, and Baktash’s
bodyguard quickly fled. Before heading to the police station to ensure—with bribes—that there
was no fallout from the incident, Baktash, Ibrahim, and Baktash’s bodyguard stashed their guns
with Goswami. They retrieved the weapons later that day.
E. The Akashas’ Murder of “Pinky”
The Akashas’ armed altercation with Livondo fueled the dispute with Armstrong. In the
days following the armed confrontation with Livondo, Pinky called Baktash and defended
Armstrong and Livondo. Baktash and Goswami exchanged threats with Pinky on the call.
Immediately following the call, Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami discussed what to do in response
to Pinky’s threats and Armstrong’s efforts to scare them. All three agreed that Pinky needed to be
killed. Baktash, Ibrahim, and Goswami decided that killing Pinky would have the benefit of not
only stopping Armstrong but also sending a message to the South African drug market that the
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Akashas were serious traffickers who would not tolerate threats. The Akashas and Goswami met
with Goswami’s brother-in-law, who agreed to arrange for Pinky’s murder in exchange for a half-
ton of abba from the Akashas’ drug business. In the weeks that followed, Baktash and Ibrahim
regularly asked Goswami for updates as they were anxious to see Pinky killed quickly. Goswami
ultimately received news of Pinky’s death and shared it with Baktash and Ibrahim, who celebrated
by drinking and dancing at Baktash’s home.
Pinky’s death sent a message. He was shot 32 times in the street. Rumors of the Akashas’
involvement in the murder quickly spread through South Africa as intended. The Akashas used
Pinky’s death as leverage in their drug negotiations, with, for example, Ibrahim threatening a drug
transporter that he could meet the same fate as Pinky if he did not comply with the Akashas’
Although Baktash now claims that he had no involvement in Pinky’s death, he and
Goswami described the participation of Baktash and Ibrahim in the murder during a meeting
recorded by the DEA. Goswami detailed the lead-up to Pinky’s death through its bloody
conclusion, and Baktash can be heard on the recording agreeing and echoing Goswami throughout
Goswami’s narration of the murder. Goswami started by describing how, at Baktash’s request,
Goswami contributed approximately $200,000 to assist Armstrong (GX 421-T, pg. 2, lines 1-5),
and how Baktash was expecting a profit of a “minimum of $10 million” from his deal with
Armstrong (id., pg. 2, line 9). Goswami told the confidential source, however, that Armstrong
“ran away” (id., pg. 3, line 1), and that Armstrong’s “right hand man” (Pinky) later called Baktash
to say that Armstrong intended to kill Baktash and Goswami (id., pg. 3, lines 9-20). Goswami
explained how Baktash and Goswami then confronted Armstrong at his hotel and threatened him
(id., pg. 6, lines 4-6), and that the following day “Ibrahim picked him up” and brought him to
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Baktash’s home (id., pg. 6, line 6). Goswami told the source that Ibrahim “wanted to beat”
Armstrong, and that Baktash “beat him” and “wanted to even kill him.” (Id., pg.7, line 1).
Goswami said that, following this incident, “Baktash pressured” Goswami and asked him to “take
this guy out” (id., pg. 7, line 3), and Baktash asked Goswami on a daily basis to handle the situation
quickly because Baktash was “not relaxed.” (Id., pg. 8, line 19). On the recording, Baktash
explained to the source that his “money” and his “shares” in Armstrong’s mandrax factory were
tied up. (Id., pg. 8, line 20). Goswami told the source that he paid $700,000 to arrange for the
murder. (Id., pg. 7, lines 3-5). At the conclusion of Goswami’s statements, Baktash makes clear
what the result was: “thirty-two bullets” in Armstrong’s “right hand man,” Pinky. (Id., pg. 7, lines
6-8; pg. 8, line 5). Goswami told the source that, following Pinky’s murder, it was clear that
“nobody can fuck with us in this area,” and Baktash added, “no, we’re safe.” (Id., pg. 9, lines 4-
F.The Akashas Use of Kidnappings and Violence to Target the Associates of Drug
Rival Ali Punjani
The Akashas’ drug rivalries were not limited to Armstrong’s organization. In 2014 and
2015, the Akashas’ primary drug-trafficking rival in Mombasa was an individual named Ali
Punjani. To show their dominance over Punjani, the Akashas targeted his associates—“Speedy”
and Tony Sanghani.
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1.The Kidnapping and Assault of “Speedy”
One of the Akashas’ victims was a close associate of Punjani’s known as “Speedy.”
Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, Baktash’s body guards, and others, kidnapped Speedy from a mall
and brought him to Baktash’s home, where he was beaten. A video of the incident from Ibrahim’s
phone shows Goswami and others hitting and kicking Speedy as Baktash looks on. (GX 500-J).
Once the assault concluded, Baktash directed that Speedy be dropped off at Punjani’s casino to
send a message. Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami and others drove Speedy to the casino and left him
2.The Assault of Tony Sanghani
Another victim of the Akashas was an individual named Tony Sanghani, who was also a
close associate of Punjani. In September 2014, Baktash became concerned that Sanghani was
setting up an alliance between Goswami and Punjani that would push the Akashas out of the drug
market. Baktash, Ibrahim, and others approached Sanghani and brutally beat him. During the
assault of Sanghani, Baktash beat Goswami as well. Ibrahim beat Sanghani with his fists and his
gun. Sanghani suffered serious injuries, went into a coma, and was hospitalized for several weeks.
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During that time, the Akashas directed an associate to take a photo of Sanghani in the hospital, and
Ibrahim saved those photos on his phone (GX 500-K1, 500-K2):
Immediately following the assault, Baktash bragged about the Akashas’ brutality in a
recorded call with Rashid. Baktash described how “Tony” was in the hospital and how Baktash
“beat him like a dog.” (GX 419-T, at 1). During the call, Baktash was emphatically clear about
the purpose of this violence—to show the drug market that “Mombasa is mine and I’m taking it
3. 2006 New Year’s Eve Night Club Altercation With Punjani’s Associates
Immediately prior to their expulsion from Kenya, the Akashas engaged in one final attack
on Punjani’s organization. On New Year’s Eve 2016, Baktash and Ibrahim went to a nightclub
owned by Punjani with a large group of associates, including armed guards. Goswami, who was
also present, witnessed Baktash and Ibrahim draw their guns and fight with Punjani’s associates.
Following the altercation, Baktash and Ibrahim laughed proudly about the incident, and Baktash
told Goswami he held the power in Mombasa.
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G. The Akashas’ Extortion Business
Separate from the violence they used to protect their drug business, the Akashas have also
long been engaged in a violent extortion business. Baktash and Ibrahim were hired to collect
money for notorious criminals throughout Africa. In one video from Ibrahim’s phone, Ibrahim
records and narrates an assault of a man covered in slash marks who is repeatedly slapped while
he is questioned about money. (See GX 505J-1, 505J-1A, 505J-1B, 505J-1C).
As another example, in 2016, Ibrahim described for Goswami an incident in which Ibrahim
took a man by force to a bank in Mombasa, held the man at gunpoint, and forced the man to
withdraw approximately 1 million Kenyan Shilling that the Akashas claimed were owed to them.
Goswami observed Ibrahim take the man by force to the bank and return with the money.
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H. Baktash’s Torture of His Son and Murder of One of His Wives
Baktash’s violent episodes were not limited to his attacks on other drug traffickers.
Baktash was regularly violent toward his family as well. Goswami witnessed Baktash, for
example, tie his teenage son to a tree, beat him, and brand him with a burning metal rod. The son
was hospitalized for his injuries but survived. Baktash’s former wife was not so lucky. Goswami
was told by both Ibrahim and Baktash’s current wife that Baktash killed his former wife, and
Goswami witnessed a dispute during which Ibrahim confronted Baktash about this murder
(Baktash did not respond). Goswami also witnessed Baktash hit his current wife on several
V. The Akashas’ Extensive Drug Trafficking and Violence Are Relevant to
In a recent submission to the Court, Baktash’s counsel suggested that a Fatico hearing may
not be necessary, or that its scope should be limited. These arguments should be rejected. The
defendants’ false denial of their involvement in Pinky’s murder is alone sufficient to warrant a
hearing. Whether the defendants agreed to have someone killed so they could protect and expand
their drug business is a fact that cannot be left unresolved at sentencing. Moreover, Ibrahim’s
denials extend far beyond his involvement in Pinky’s murder to include his involvement in any
violence, his possession of firearms, his drug trafficking of abba and other precursor chemicals,
and his general role in the Akashas’ drug business. To resolve these material disputes, and to
understand the extent of the defendants’ efforts to mislead the Court, the Court must consider the
full context of the Akashas’ crimes. Goswami’s comprehensive testimony about the origins of the
Akashas’ drug business, the identities of their partners, and their role in violence is thus necessary
information for the Court’s imposition of sentence.
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The Government’s efforts to provide this Court with fulsome evidence and testimony
regarding the Akashas’ crimes in advance of sentencing is well-supported by the law. Pursuant to
United States Sentencing Guidelines Section 6A1.3, “[w]hen any factor important to the
sentencing determination is reasonably in dispute, the parties shall be given an adequate
opportunity to present information to the court” regarding the disputed factor. In resolving such a
dispute, the Court is not bound by the rules of evidence, and may consider any relevant information
that has sufficient indicia of reliability. U.S.S.G. § 6A1.3. The Court’s discretion is “‘largely
unlimited either as to the kind of information [the Court] may consider, or the source from which
it may come.’” United States v. Carmona, 873 F.2d 569, 574 (2d Cir. 1989) (quoting United States
v. Tucker, 404 U.S. 443, 446 (1972)). While defense counsel may wish to shield the defendants
by limiting the sentencing record, the law directs that “[n]o limitation shall be placed on the
information concerning the background, character, and conduct of a person convicted of an offense
which a court of the United States may receive and consider for the purpose of imposing an
appropriate sentence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3661 (emphasis added).
Ultimately, all of the information detailed above is relevant to sentencing and should be
considered by the Court following the Hearing. The Sentencing Guidelines in this case call for a
sentence of life imprisonment. Here, Probation agrees. In deciding whether to impose such a
sentence, the Court must be equipped with all relevant information regarding Baktash and
Ibrahim’s history, character, and criminal conduct.
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Based on the testimony at the Hearing and the evidence attached to this submission, the
Court should reject the Akashas’ efforts to minimize their conduct and mislead the Court.
Following the Hearing, the Court should overrule Ibrahim’s objections to the PSR and schedule a
prompt date for Ibrahim’s sentencing. The Court should further reject Baktash’s denial of his
involvement in Pinky’s murder and should consider the full extent of Baktash’s historical drug
trafficking and violence. To the extent the Court is prepared to proceed to sentencing Baktash on
July 26, 2019, the Court should impose a sentence of life imprisonment for all of the reasons set
out above and in the Government’s submission of April 14, 2019.
Dated: New York, New York
July 22, 2019
GEOFFREY S. BERMAN
United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York
Emil J. Bove III
Amanda L. Houle
Jason A. Richman
Assistant United States Attorneys
Cc: Defense Counsel
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Hafeez, a well-known figure in the British polo set, was arrested in London in 2017, accused of conspiring with Goswami and his accomplices, the Akasha brothers, to ship heroin, methamphetamine and hashish to the US. He is fighting extradition to the US, reportedly claiming he is the victim of mistaken identity.
Goswami, brothers Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, and a fourth man, Gulam Hussein of Pakistan, were arrested in Kenya in November 2014 following a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) undercover operation. They had delivered 99 kilograms of heroin – allegedly sourced via Hafeez – and two kilograms of methamphetamine to DEA agents posing as representatives of a Colombian drug cartel.
They staved off extradition to the US until January 2017 allegedly by bribing Kenyan judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
Goswami reached a co-operation agreement with the US authorities that saw him testify first in secret to the grand jury, and then in public during the sentencing hearing of the Akashas, who had pleaded guilty.
Baktash Akasha may be sentenced this coming Friday and his brother Ibrahim in November.
Manhattan district attorney Geoffrey Berman previously labelled the Akashas “two of the most prolific drug traffickers in the world”.
South African sources with ties to policing told amaBhungane that Goswami has for years tried to maintain a monopoly over mandrax dealing in this country and apparently has high-level connections here, including intelligence operatives.
In his sensational testimony during the sentencing hearing in the New York Southern District court late last month, Goswami named several South Africans and persons with links to the country.
These include a businessman he identified as his brother-in-law, Dennis Jedburgh, who Goswami alleged was involved in mandrax smuggling and in organising two assassinations in South Africa, in 2014 and 2016.
AmaBhungane was unsuccessful in getting Jedburgh’s comment despite several attempts, including queries being sent to his relatives who were asked to forward these to him.
One Jedburgh relative said he had not been in contact for a lengthy period and that his whereabouts were unknown.
Goswami also claimed he once contacted a Johannesburg businessman, Ajay Goswami, because he wanted a drug rival known as “Pinky” killed in South Africa in 2014.
This month Ajay Goswami told amaBhungane that he knew Goswami, but that they were not related as Goswami had alleged.
He confirmed that Goswami had been in contact with him about five years ago and had demanded “extreme and unethical favours” from him.
He recalled being asked during a phone call to see to it that Pinky was killed but said it was so ludicrous he initially thought it was a joke. He subsequently cut contact with Goswami, but remained worried about his and his family’s safety.
Zambia and Zuma links
AmaBhungane understands that Goswami and a Zambian national who went on to live in South Africa, Ibrahim Sildky Yusuf, were at one stage brothers-in-law.
Their then-wives are said to be sisters of Dennis Jedburgh, who is apparently from Zambia and who later operated in South Africa and then the United Arab Emirates.
Yusuf was on the Zambian police’s radar in the 80s on suspicion of mandrax dealing.
His name also cropped up during a local investigation – in a 1987 affidavit Vuyo Ndzeku, a one-time drug smuggler then based in Cape Town, identified Yusuf by his alias Iboo, saying he was a mandrax seller.
Yusuf was never chargedand has denied knowing Ndzeku.
The Mail & Guardian reported in 2010 that Yusuf’s company Intratrek held exclusive distribution rights to a questionable male circumcision device, the Tara KLamp, which the KwaZulu-Natal health department used in a campaign to prevent HIV transmission.
The report also said that Yusuf had been detained in Zambia in the 1980s for mandrax smuggling and later fled that country. Yusuf denied both these allegations.
In 2011, the newspaper reported that Yusuf was in business with Billy Masethla, a former National Intelligence Agency head then widely viewed as an ally of then-president Jacob Zuma.
Yusuf’s son Tariq was photographed hobnobbing with Zuma at a glitzy evening function linked to a charitable foundation with ties to Zuma.
Tariq also directed a company with one of Zuma’s sons, Mxolisi Zuma.
Dennis ‘the menace’
Jedburgh appears to have been Goswami’s key South African contact.
During the US sentencing hearing, Goswami testified that while behind bars in Dubai from 1997 he was laundering money via a Colombian cartel through countries including South Africa, the US and Canada. “In South Africa I ran the mandrax business while I was in prison (in Dubai).”
Goswami testified that at some point while in prison he allegedly arranged for Jedburgh to get a ton of abba, a substance used to produce mandrax, from Malawi to South Africa where Jedburgh was meant to conduct business for him.
Goswami said he had a mobile phone while in custody, so was able to contact associates on the outside, and that through his illegal business from jail, he made roughly three million US dollars.
His life sentence was eventually reduced to 15-and-a-half years and he was released in December 2012.
He alleged he had worked with a senior Dubai intelligence boss for years while in jail in exchange for a pardon, but this had not happened and instead he was granted an early release.
Goswami settled in Kenya where soon he started drug dealing again.
In 2013 he contacted the Akasha brothers – he’d known Baktash since the 1980s – and this became a seed for their mass drug smuggling empire.
During that time Goswami claimed to have ramped up his supply of mandrax precursor to Jedburgh.
According to Goswami, Jedburgh’s role was to manufacture the abba into mandrax tablets in South Africa and sell it as well as bring it to the US, where the drug is known as qualudes.
During cross-examination Goswami was asked:
“How much abba did you supply to him in South Africa?”
“How much money did you make in mandrax after you got out of prison in Dubai?”
“We made millions of dollars.”
The mysterious Mr Armstrong
A South African, David Armstrong, was named in the US court papers as being a rival to the Akasha brothers.
Goswami alleged that in 2013 Baktash told him that he was dealing in mandrax with Armstrong.
“Baktash told me David Armstrong was manufacturing mandrax tablet in Mombasa, in one of the politician’s house.”
According to Goswami, Armstrong later moved his mandrax manufacturing to a warehouse in the Kenya Central Highlands town of Nyeri, but was tipped off about a pending police raid and moved shop to a laboratory in Hong Kong.
In 2013 Baktash allegedly told Goswami that he was bribing officials in Nairobi to access tons of abba belonging to Armstrong, which had been seized and was being kept in a government warehouse.
That same year, Goswami testified, Ibrahim Akasha introduced him to Pinky, a South African drug transporter and Armstrong’s right hand man, in a Nairobi nightclub.
Goswami alleged Pinky transported drugs for “Baktash, for David Armstrong, and many others who sell the drugs from East Africa to South Africa.”
The year after meeting Pinky, 2014, Goswami then met Armstrong in Baktash’s Mombasa home – he said Armstrong was hiding there.
“Baktash told me David Armstrong is having some immigration problem, but we can solve it by bribing the Kenyan government officials and it’s going to cost around half a million dollars.”
Goswami handed over more than US$200 000 to try and help Armstrong and in return Goswami said Armstrong was “supposed to give me half a million mandrax tablets in South Africa”.
Armstrong also agreed to give Baktash a 25 percent cut of his mandrax manufacturing operation in the Congo.
But in April 2014 Armstrong fled from Baktash’s home without keeping up his end of the deal, infuriating Baktash. Soon, things became heated between the men.
Assassination in SA and mandrax destined for Cape Town
Goswami alleged that Baktash told him Armstrong was staying in Nairobi under the protection of a Kenyan politician and that Armstrong wanted him and Goswami murdered because he thought the duo sent immigration officers to his hideout in Nairobi.
Baktash summoned Goswami to his Mombasa home and Armstrong was there – Ibrahim had allegedly kidnapped him from a hotel – and they beat and threatened him.
Subsequently, Pinky contacted Baktash and threatened to take revenge over what they had done to Armstrong.
“So myself, Baktash and Ibrahim, we sat down and we said this is going too far now, we should have Pinky killed,” Goswami alleged.
“First of all, Pinky was threatening us; second, we wanted to have him killed so we can put an impression in South African drug market we are not here to play.”
This is where Goswami contacted both Ajay Goswami and allegedly his brother-in-law, Jedburgh.
“I offered Ajay Goswami half a ton of abba if his people can kill Pinky in return,” Goswami alleged.
Goswami testified that he also set up a meeting at Baktash’s house in June or July 2014 with Jedburgh and the Akashas.
“We offered that we can pay up to half a ton of abba to whoever killed Pinky… Jedburgh’s response, he said he can do that thing.”
Pinky was shot 32 times in a car in South Africa around August 2014. Goswami claimed Jedburgh notified him of the murder, and that Jedburgh got the half a ton of abba as promised.
In court, Baktash denied any involvement in the killing.
In September 2015, Goswami and the Akasha’s allegedly confronted Armstrong again in a Mombasa hotel about his unmet promises, beating him up in his hotel room.
Armstrong eventually paid over 150 000 Mandrax tablets in South Africa, Goswami testified. One of “Baktash’s men” allegedly picked up the consignment in Johannesburg, from where it was “delivered to one of my men in Cape Town” to be sold.
Around this time Armstrong is said to have died of a heart attack.
More SA murder links
Goswami testified that he and his associates also imported ephedrine, a component of crystal methamphetamine, which was allegedly produced in an Avon Lifesciences factory in Solapur, India.
But the factory was raided in 2016 and, according to the US court papers, it subsequently shut down.
Ten suspects were reportedly arrested and 7 others, including Goswami, were named as suspects
In April 2016, Goswami testified, Baktash asked him to get two tons of abba into South Africa. “He wanted to manufacture the tablets and sell them in South Africa, mandrax tablets,” Goswami claimed.
As part of this plan, Goswami called a man known as Taka in South Africa.
“I met Taka through Baktash and I know Taka has been working with drug business with Baktash for a long time,” Goswmai said.
But Goswami did not provide the abba as he felt he would not make money out of the plan – which angered Baktash.
Goswami alleged Baktash broke into his home after threatening to beat up Goswami’s girlfriend.
Goswami then told someone known as Mazaghadi – “my associate who I deal with him in drugs in South Africa” – about what Baktash had done.
Mazaghadi indicated he wanted Taka killed. Goswami agreed as, he said, Taka was pressuring Baktash for the two tons of abba and this led to Baktash threatening Goswami. Eliminating Taka would remove the pressure from Baktash.
Taka was murdered in South Africa the day after Goswami spoke to Mazaghadi.
“Some shooters went to his house and they killed him in his house,” Goswami said. He alleged he assigned the task of killing Taka to Jedburgh.
AmaBhungane has not been able to identify Pinky or Taka.
‘Master manipulator’ cosied up to Mandela
The Akasha brothers’ defence team in the US has labelled Goswami a “master manipulator” who would easily lie and exaggerate the role of his associates to avoid jail time.
In cross examination, Goswami admitted selling out his own laundry network to the Dubai authorities, leading to the arrest of 11 people. He also admitted paying “some individual” US$10-miilion to secure his early release from prison in Dubai, but insisted he had never bribed anyone in exchange for his release.
It was also revealed that while out on bail after his arrest in Kenya and prior to his extradition he was approached by the Indian foreign intelligence agency.
Goswami testified he had been asked to arrange the assassination of a “terrorist” in Thailand and “two or three” in Pakistan and that he had agreed to help.
It was put to him that he agreed with the agency to participate in assassinating Dawood Ibrahim, one of India’s most wanted fugitives and a man the defence described as one of Goswami’s main rivals in the drug trade.
Defence counsel Dawn Cardi put it to Goswami: “You really have no problems with killing people, correct?”
He answered: “At that time, yes.”
Co-counsel George Goltzer told the judge: “He’s a remarkable witness… He is a master criminal. Think of it, Judge: He gets arrested in Dubai and sentenced to life, and while he is serving a life sentence, within a period of two years he earns $3 million by laundering 400 to $500 million around the entire world. I have never seen anything like that… He had connections all over the place. He had connections in Dubai. He had connections in the Arab speaking world. He had connections in Pakistan. He had connections in Japan with the Yakuza. He was laundering money all over the world.”
Goltzer said when Goswami had Pinky killed, it was to hurt Armstrong and take over his business: “This guy’s been a terrorist all his life. He was going to do a ton of heroin with the Sultan. He was going to turn himself into one of the biggest drug dealers in the world while he was cooperating with other governments and while he was out on bail.”
The defence has portrayed Goswami as always having been exceptionally conniving – it was put to him that decades ago he tried to ingratiate himself with influential figures in South Africa, among them politicians including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, to try and gain protection from punishment for his drug dealings.
Goswami denied this but confirmed taking a picture together with Mandela.
In 2014 he reportedly told the Sunday Times, “I knew some of the ANC leaders and ministers when I was in South Africa from our days in Zambia. I gave money to the ANC and contributed to the struggle.”
Hold over SA
According to sources with ties to policing who previously looked into Goswami and his South African associates, several figures who were identified as suspects in the late 1980s to mid-1990s slipped through policing cracks for two main reasons.
The first was that some police officers, intelligence operatives and politicians colluded with those under investigation; the second that intelligence and policing services underwent massive restructuring post-apartheid.
In the 1980s and 1990s local police investigators had focused on a group of men, some who were at first based in Alexandra and Soweto, but who later started moving elsewhere in the country as investigations into mass mandrax dealing were ramped up.
According to two sources with links to police and drug dealing investigations, probes in the 1980s had revealed that drugs were being smuggled around the country and across borders in various ways, including by air.
One said that mandrax consignments were being smuggled, sometimes unaccompanied, in the cargo holds of planes on behalf of men who police suspected were linked to Goswami.
Goswami told US authorities he started drug dealing in 1987, which means he likely shared details about his subsequent activities in South Africa.
“If Vicky Goswami must talk, your whole SA infrastructure collapses,” a local source who investigated Goswami in the 1990s told amaBhungane. He was referring to drug dealing networks set up decades ago, some of which were still possibly operational.
The most notable South African figure who Goswami associated with was Orlando Pirates chair Irvin Khoza.
Both Goswami and Khoza were under intense investigation because of suspicions they were involved in a high-level mandrax syndicate with operations stretching to India, Zambia and Mozambique.
Khoza has always denied these claims, though he reportedly was arrested in Zambia on suspicion of mandrax possession in 1983. According to the book Nothing Left to Steal by Mzilikazi wa Afrika, he paid a fine of 95 kwacha.
As probes into Goswami and his associates in South Africa developed, some suspects were murdered and in one case a suspect disappeared, an incident which remains unsolved.
Much to the chagrin of at least two investigators who looked into Goswami and his South African associates in the 1990s, some suspects were never held to account and they became successful businesspeople.
Looking back – Goswami’s suspected SA associates
Between 1991 and about 1993 the then South African Narcotics Bureau’s Operation Rose probed Goswami and his suspected local counterparts.
Those flagged included Khoza, Abie “Pankie” Khabela, who in the early 70s played for Orlando Pirates and who at one stage was a bodyguard for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, as well as Khabela’s friend, suspected large-scale drug peddler Keith Sekhukhune Motapanyane.
While Goswami left South Africa in the mid-90s, the mandrax scene in this country started heating up and a string of crimes were carried out.
The first still remains unsolved and Goswami may have shed some light on it while detained in the US.
Soweto drug dealer Robert “Rocks” Dlamini, an associate of both Goswami and Khoza, disappeared on April 6, 1995, while reportedly on his way to see Khoza.
According to a source, Dlamini had apparently been headed to Khoza after he and some associates had gone to Mumbai to collect a massive stash of mandrax, but once there were told instead to collect it from persons in South Africa.
They were left empty-handed, and wanted to be reimbursed.
Khoza, according to a Sunday Times article, denied involvement in the Dlamini incident.
Dlamini’s disappearance remains unsolved.
The ex-investigator said that around the time Dlamini went missing, Goswami left South Africa.
In the US court, Goswami issued two curt denials when he was asked under oath, “Isn’t it a fact that it was reported that [Dlamini] disappeared after a drug deal went bad with you? … Is it true that you hired [a] well-known soccer boss to take care of him?”
AmaBhungane was unable to get comment from Khoza despite multiple attempts via his personal assistant, Orlando Pirates’ spokesperson and a number listed as Khoza’s.
Body in a boot
A policing source said that roughly the time Dlamini disappeared, the South African Narcotics Bureau opened a file on a businessman based in Camps Bay, Bhekizulu Tshabalala, who had made massive cash deposits at a bank in Cape Town’s city centre.
The source said that the deposits were then transferred to an account which investigators linked to a businessman in Johannesburg suspected of working with Goswami.
Investigations revealed that Tshabalala played a role in supplying massive consignments of mandrax, some from Zambia, largely to now-deceased gang boss Colin Stanfield, who would ensure it was distributed and sold in Cape Town.
Tshabalala was discovered murdered in the boot of his car at Cape Town International Airport in June 1996. He had been shot in the head.
Tshabalala’s wife’s alleged lover was eventually convicted of his killing, but suspicion still exists among those who monitored Tshabalala’s drug operations as to who truly orchestrated the murder.
“Pankie” Khabela, another figure who had been under investigation with Goswami, also ended up dead.
He and a friend, Lucas Msipha, were shot execution-style in July 2001 at his home in Montana near Bishop Lavis, a Cape Town suburb that is also a stronghold of the 28s gang.
Court papers covering the convictions of Khabela’s three killers do not detail why he was murdered.
One policing source told amaBhungane that Khabela was assassinated because “he knew too much” about prominent figures involved in high-level mandrax peddling. A second police source said it was suspected Khabela was feeding information to intelligence operatives and was killed to prevent him from divulging more.
Murder at a wedding
In March 2002, barely eight months after Khabela was killed, his associate and friend, Keith Motapanyane, who was also under investigation for mass mandrax dealing, was murdered by gunmen who stormed a wedding celebration in Orlando West, Soweto.
It was reported that soccer star Doctor Khumalo was one of two guests who were wounded in the brazen attack.
At the time Motapanyane’s brother, Victor told a City Press reporter: “It is obvious that the killings are being orchestrated by powerful people.”
One of the police sources told amaBhungane that Motapanyane’s killing had been expected because he, given his proximity to Khabela, also knew too much.
Based on what investigations uncovered in the 1990s, according to this source, Motapanyane had sometimes acted as a sophisticated decoy drug mule.
He was a high-profile individual and therefore more likely to attract attention, so he would often take flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg with two others who would act as scouts to ensure drug consignments on a plane, kept in the cargo hold, ended up where intended.
These ghosts may now return to haunt old suspects if Goswami has implicated them in the US.
The US and South Africa are both member countries of Interpol. AmaBhungane understands the two are sharing information on overlapping matters, which should include the Goswami case.
In March, national Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told amaBhungane they were aware of the Goswami matter unfolding in the US. “But it has not been brought yet by any authority for the attention of the Hawks,” he said.
At the time, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told amaBhungane police were not aware of the Goswami matter.
In late July we again asked Mulaudzi and Naidoo if there had been any developments.
Naidoo said the police’s Interpol office had nothing about the matter on record, while Mulaudzi did not provide a response by the time of publication..
Caryn Dolley is the author of The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2019).
The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, an independent non-profit, produced this story. Like it? Be an amaB supporter, sign up for its newsletter or visit amaBhungane.org.