Two Pakistanis indicted for pharma conspiracy
Two Pakistani nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges alleging that they operated Internet sites that illegally shipped pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers in the United States, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq, 39, and Tahir Saeed, 50, are accused of operating Internet sites that, since late 2005, illegally shipped USD 2 million of pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers worldwide, including nearly USD 780,000 in sales to U.S. purchasers.
According to the indictment, the defendants and others owned, operated, and conducted business as Waseem Enterprises and Harry's Enterprises, wholesale pharmaceutical companies that were located in Pakistan.
The businesses were used to unlawfully distribute a wide variety of controlled substances and prescription drugs through Internet sites.
The defendants and others also advertised their companies on Internet sites to generate business.
Ul Haq and Saeed directed U.S. customers to submit payments via Western Union to numerous individuals in Karachi, Pakistan, in order to conceal the fact that the funds were going to Ul Haq and Saeed.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants admitted in e-mails that they paid bribes to Pakistani customs officials to facilitate shipment of the drugs out of Pakistan and warned that U.S. customers bore the risk of interception by U.S. customs officials.
The indictment alleges that the defendants packaged the drug shipments in ways which reduced the likelihood of interdiction by customs inspectors and told customers that, despite the packaging, some of the shipments might not get through.
The drugs shipped into the United States included methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin); various anabolic steroids; alprazolam (sold as Xanax); diazepam (sold as Valium); lorazepam (sold as Ativan); clonazepam (sold as Klonapin); and other controlled and non-controlled substances.
The indictment, which was returned on November 6, was announced on Wednesday by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Department of Justice's Civil Division; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office; Robert Brisolari, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Gary R. Barksdale, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Metro Washington Field Office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.
The indictment was returned following a presentation of evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, working in conjunction with the Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Branch.
It charges the defendants with conspiracy to import controlled substance pharmaceuticals into the United States; conspiracy to distribute controlled substance pharmaceuticals; conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce; importation and distribution of controlled substance pharmaceuticals; introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs; and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
It also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds that can be traced to the scheme.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts involving the conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, as well as up to 20 years for the conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
They face a maximum penalty of five years for conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce and additional time if convicted of the other charges.
In early October, a law enforcement task force investigating the case learned that the defendants would be traveling from Pakistan to northern Europe.
With coordination from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, U.S. authorities lodged provisional arrest warrants for the defendants first in Germany and then in the United Kingdom.
With the assistance of Interpol and law enforcement agents in Germany and the United Kingdom, the defendants were tracked from Germany to London, where they were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police Service Fugitive Squad at a hotel near Heathrow Airport on October 19.
They were presented to Westminster Magistrate's Court in London and ordered held pending extradition to the United States.
"This indictment alleges an international conspiracy to sell anabolic steroids, tranquilizers, and other prescription drugs over the Internet to American consumers without any doctor involved," said U.S. Attorney Machen.
"These Pakistani nationals are charged with shipping pharmaceuticals wrapped in trash bags into the United States in packages with phony return addresses in exchange for money wired to servants and employees in Pakistan. We will seek to extradite these defendants to the United States and to hold them accountable in an American courtroom."
"This prosecution aims to curb the flow of dangerous drugs into the hands of United States citizens," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.
"The drugs allegedly sold by the defendants were not approved for distribution into the United States, were not dispensed by U.S. licensed pharmacies, and were not prescribed by any physician. Along with the FBI, FDA, and our other law enforcement partners, we will continue to protect our citizens from unsafe and potentially harmful drugs."
"This complex investigation and subsequent arrests disrupted an international black market for potentially dangerous drugs entering the United States," said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin.
"This indictment is the direct result of the hard work of FBI agents in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations, and the London Metropolitan Police Service as well as the prosecutors working on this case."
"This indictment shows the commitment of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to keep its customers safe from potentially harmful products," said Inspector in Charge Barksdale.
"We would also like to thank our federal partners in our continued effort to rid the U.S. mail of illegal pharmaceuticals."
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.