Thursday May 30, 2024

I shouldn’t be in Belmarsh prison on US allegations: Asif Hafeez

By Murtaza Ali Shah
February 17, 2020

LONDON: Pakistani national Mohammad Asif Hafeez has said that he should not be in high-security Belmarsh prison fighting American bid to extradite him to the United Sates to face multiple drugs smuggling charges.

Famously known as the “Sultan” of drugs in court papers, Asif Hafeez has been detained at the prison facility reserved for terrorists for nearly three years. His case is at the London High Court against his extradition after the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered his extradition to face charges in the US.

Asif Hafeez spoke to Ross Kemp for ITV’s “Welcome to HMP Belmarsh, With Ross Kemp”. Asif Hafeez has denied all charges by the US, stating that he has been framed by the US authorities. Stressing his innocence, Asif Hafeez said: “I shouldn’t be in prison. I have never been to any jail in my life and I am 62 years old.”

Asif Hafeez has been accused of running an empire of drugs. The National Crime Agency (NCA) on request of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had arrested Mohammad Asif Hafeez from his North London home in August 2017. Asif Hafeez laughed off when asked that he has been described as the alleged mastermind of a global drugs smuggling empire.

Asif Hafeez told Kemp: “Our family are number one gold and silver dealer in Dubai for the last 40 years. We have sold $2.5 billion worth of gold and silver for them in Dubai.”

The Pakistani businessman shared with the TV show what life is like for him in the prison. Hafeez, who once mingled with the likes of Royal family at Polo matches, said he grew strawberries in the prison. “This year 2-3 tonnes of strawberries came out from Belmarsh prison. We can supply to Tesco from here!”

Asif Hafeez’s legal team has told the London High Court that US prosecutors have tried to fix Hafeez into cases with which he had no remote link even. Lawyers have told the court that the US tried to link Hafeez with Avon pharmaceuticals ephedrine case. Hafeez had no connection with this case.

Indian court papers show that Asif Hafeez’s name was never mentioned and never came up during that operation. Lawyers have said that Hafeez is a Pakistani national and had nothing to do with any cases in India.

Hafeez faces extradition to the US and faces 30 years in prison without parole which, according to European law, is a breach of his human rights. The US District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan has sentenced leading Kenyan drug trafficker, Baktash Akasha, to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import heroin and methamphetamine and other crimes.

Prosecutors described Akasha as the leader of a crime family called the Akasha organisation, a major smuggling operation connecting the poppy fields of Afghanistan to European and US cities. In his guilty plea, Akasha also admitted to bribing officials in Kenya. His brother, Ibrahim Akasha, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is scheduled to be sentenced by the same judge in November. Baktash Akasha took control of the organisation after his father, Ibrahim Akasha, was killed in a shooting, according to authorities.

The US alleges that Hafeez conspired with Akasha Organisation, led by brothers Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, for heroin production and smuggling and set up a special laboratory in Mozambique. It claimed that Indian national Goswami and his wife Mamta Kulkarni, a well-known Bollywood actress, were also part of Hafeez’s gang and ran a factory in India to manufacture ephedrine, the deadly drug’s active ingredient. It alleged that this drug from India was then due to be smuggled to Mozambique. Asif Hafeez has denied all charges.