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Trafficker identifies Nigerian politician as ringleader of heroin operation

A Nigerian politician wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges failed to appear in court on Monday, the country’s anti-narcotics body said.

Buruji Kashamu, who was elected in March to represent southwest Ogun state in Nigeria’s upper chamber of parliament the Senate, was indicted in an Illinois court in 1998 over conspiracy to distribute heroin.

He was placed under house arrest at his Lagos residence on Saturday after years of US requests to extradite him to face trial.

But the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said on Monday he failed to appear at the scheduled hearing.

“The agency is working hard to ensure that he submits himself to the due process of the law,” the NDLEA said in a statement.

“His house remained cordoned by anti-narcotic officers pending his appearance in court.”

No date was given for the next hearing.

Nigerian narcotics agents said on Saturday a senator-elect was placed under house arrest who is wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges, with an extradition hearing set for Monday.

Kashamu was previously arrested in Britain in December 1998 but convinced the authorities that the drug trafficking evidence related to his now late brother, and that he was the victim of mistaken identity.

He was released in 2003 and returned to Nigeria, where he became a major funder of the powerful Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan.

Kashamu and his aides have cried foul, claiming his detention was illegal but the NDLEA said it had acted in accordance with the law.

The claims against him stem from the arrest of a trafficker caught trying to smuggle 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms) of heroin through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in 1994, according to documents filed with the US District Court in Illinois.

During interrogation, that trafficker identified Kashamu — then a resident of Nigeria’s tiny neighbour Benin — as the ringleader of the heroin operation.

Kashamu has repeatedly denied any involvement in drug smuggling, consistently throwing blame on his deceased brother, whom he reportedly resembles.


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