Federal authorities have broken up an international drug trafficking and money laundering operation with ties to Pakistan and Thailand that they say was responsible for large shipments of heroin for the street market in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun says.
U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said 11 men were charged in a 22-count indictment. Court records described a sophisticated and large-scale heroin operation. Authorities said the group arranged for the sale of more than 40 kilograms of heroin. The conspirators allegedly arranged for the shipment of 20 kilograms of heroin in exchange for a $140,000 down payment at a meeting in November in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. About 19.2 kilograms of the heroin was shipped in January in a crate of soccer balls and other athletic equipment, headed to the United States through London’s Heathrow Airport.
Authorities said payment for some heroin shipments was made through an underground banking system known by the Hindi word hawala. The virtually paperless system involves money deposited with a broker in one country and withdrawn from a second broker in another place. The system produces no records and relies on trust among brokers.