Pakistani nationals indicted for illegal pharma imports
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, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq, 39, and Tahir Saeed, 50, are accused of operating Internet sites that, since late 2005, illegally shipped $2 million of pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers worldwide, including nearly $780,000 in sales to U.S. buyers.
According to court documents, 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,” the Justice Department said.
The department noted Ul Haq and Saeed directed U.S. customers to submit payments via Western Union to numerous individuals in Karachi, Pakistan, to conceal 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.
If convicted, Ul Haq and Saeed 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 Justice Department'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 Oct. 19. They were presented to Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London and ordered held pending extradition to the United States.
“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 Justice Department’s 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.”