An Afghan man who authorities say was one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world and who used proceeds of his drug sales to support the Taliban insurgency was sentenced yesterday to life in prison.
Haji Bagcho manufactured heroin in secret laboratories along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan and sent drugs to more than 20 countries. He was returned to the United States in 2009 to face charges following an investigation that went on for years by Afghan and American authorities.
Prosecutors said his vast drug-trafficking network in eastern Afghanistan produced hundreds of thousands of kilograms of heroin, including some intended for the US, and funnelled proceeds to high-level Taliban officials who protected him from police there.
He maintained his innocence during a long and rambling statement at his sentencing hearing in federal court in Washington. His lawyer pleaded for leniency because his client is at least 70 years old and in failing health and said he doubted a long prison sentence would deter international drug traffickers.
But US District Judge Ellen Huvelle rejected those arguments, saying Bagcho was responsible for an "astronomical" quantity of drugs and that a life sentence, the maximum possible prison term, was warranted.