International drug ring suspects await trial in United States
An alleged international drug trafficker is facing a possible life sentence in the United States after he was deported from the Czech Republic along with another unidentified man who is accused of links to terrorism.
It’s understood both men flew separately to Prague from Dubai last year, although only the accused drug kingpin, Pakistani national Shiraz Malik, has been publicly identified.
The 34-year-old, who had lived in Poland, was arrested at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport Sept. 8, 2011, following lengthy investigations that reportedly included three meetings of undercover U.S. agents across European cities.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Malik is accused of controlling a wide-ranging drug trafficking ring that used Internet and front companies in Europe to sell illegal substances to customers across the world.
The name of the other man could not be released because the United States had requested his identity be kept secret, said Zuzana Součková, spokeswoman for the Czech Police Presidium.
“This success serves as a warning and is a clear signal that international criminals should not consider the Czech Republic a safe haven from justice or use it as a transit country during their travels,” Součková said.
Both of the deported men were considered dangerous criminals and were transported to the United States onboard a regular flight from Prague June 22.
Malik made his first court appearance four days later in Sacramento, California, and pleaded not guilty.
During the arraignment hearing, he was dressed in an orange county-jail jumpsuit and looked around occasionally and smiled as the not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf, according to U.S. media reports. He was then ordered to be detained pending trial.
“The indictment alleges that Shiraz Malik controlled a worldwide organization that trafficked in a variety of dangerous drugs,” said Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California. “Just as his operation was international, so was the effort to apprehend him.”
At the time of Malik’s arrest in Prague last September, a Californian grand jury indicted him on 40 counts of drug importation and money laundering.
According to an affidavit by Drug Enforcement Agency investigator Daniel P. Moriarty, Malik used the Internet to sell drugs to customers in the United States, Mexico and other countries. He allegedly sent the illegal substances to customers through express mail services after arranging for payment through U.S. banks and financial institutions.
Malik is also accused of conspiring to launder the profits of that activity from June 2008 onward.
Court documents reveal undercover agents met with Malik on three separate occasions in Milan (June 2009), Vienna (November 2009) and Budapest (August 2010).
The American law enforcement officials, with the cooperation of European authorities, posed as U.S.-based illegal drug dealers and discussed with Malik the possibility of future purchases and collaborative efforts.
They allege Malik told them his operation sold a variety of pharmaceutical and controlled substances, including steroids, oxycontin, ketamine, diazepam, lidocaine, illegal drugs including heroin from Pakistan, ecstasy from the Netherlands, methamphetamines believed to be made in the Czech Republic and ephedrine from India or China.
If convicted, the 34-year-old could be sentenced to life in prison, but further details of the other man extradited to the United States from Prague with him remain unknown.