Published March 2019
This module is a resource for lecturers
Case Study 1: Haji Bagcho (terrorism and drug trafficking)
In 2005, Haji Bagcho was investigated by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, in cooperation with Afghan authorities for narcotics offences in Afghanistan. He was believed to be one of the five founding fathers of the Taliban Ruling Shura in Kabul. With the assistance of justice collaborators, the DEA bought heroin directly from Bagcho's organization on two occasions, which Bagcho believed was destined for the United States. In 2007, DEA special agents, supported by the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan raided Bagcho's compound, located in eastern Afghanistan close to the border with Pakistan. Ledgers seized during the raid revealed that Bagcho had trafficked over 123,000 kilos of heroin worth more than $250 million in 2006. This indicated that his trafficking accounted for approximately 20% of the world's total heroin production that year. Evidence was also obtained which demonstrated that Bagcho used some of his drug proceeds to supply cash, supplies and weapons to Taliban leaders responsible for the group's activities in eastern Afghanistan.
Bagcho was extradited to the United States in June 2009, found guilty of narcotics distribution and narcoterrorism offences in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison. According to information presented at his trial, Bagcho had been conducting his heroin trafficking business since the 1990s, had transported the drug to more than 20 countries and had used the proceeds to support high-level members of the Taliban. According to DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, he was an "Afghan drug lord whose drug proceeds financed terror." Bagcho later filed a motion for a new trial as a result of which his conviction on the narcoterrorism count was vacated, although the court did not disturb the two drug convictions.
Case related files
- United States v Haji Bagcho, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, case 1:06-cr-00334-ESH (2012).
- United States v Haji Bagcho, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Case 1:06-cr-00334-TFH (2015).
- United States v Haji Bagcho, United States District Court for The District of Columbia, Case 1:06-cr-00334-TFH (2017).
- United States Department of Justice, 'Haji Bagcho Convicted by Federal Jury in Washington, D.C., on Drug Trafficking and Narco-terrorism Charges,' 13 March 2012.
- Intersection between illicit drug trafficking and terrorism
- In what way, if at all, does this case demonstrate the existence of linkages between organized crime and terrorism?
- With what offences was Bagcho charged and convicted? Which offence in particular links organized crime and terrorism?
- For what reasons was the conviction for "drug trafficking while funding terrorism" (or narcoterrorism) vacated by the court in 2015?
- What can be learned from this case about the difficulties in securing evidence to demonstrate linkages between organized crime and terrorism?
Case Study 2: Illicit arms trafficking from the United Kingdom for use by terrorists in Libya
In November 2014, Abdurraouf Eshati was arrested alongside 19 other people in the back of a lorry attempting to enter France at the Port of Dover, United Kingdom. He was accused of attempting to traffic arms into Libya for use by terrorist groups, in violation of an embargo imposed by the UN Security Council in 2011.
Specifically, Eshati's role was to act as a translator of the documents for an arms dealer, who was located in Italy, involving the smuggling of weapons from a warehouse located in Slovenia to terrorist groups in Libya. Eshati's mobile phone contained an electronic copy of an invoice for 1,104 tonnes of arms (including bullets for AK-47 rifles and rounds for anti-aircraft munitions) worth $28.5 million for delivery to Tobruk, Libya as well as a related document concerning the chartering of a cargo aeroplane at a cost of $250,000 to transfer arms to Libya.
Eshati was convicted of collecting information for terrorist purposes in respect of the two documents referred to above. During sentencing, Judge John Bevan QC stated that "(i)t's obvious that his involvement means that it was felt he could be trusted as a confidant in relation to large-scale arms supply." According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Eshati's arrest led to Italian police discovering large-scale illegal arms supplies being imported from Eastern Europe to conflict zones in Libya and other places.
Case related files
- BBC News, Wrexham imam Abdurraouf Eshati jailed over Libyan arms plot, 27 October 2015.
- Royal Court of Justice of England and Wales, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), Approved Judgement, 17 May 2016.
- Intersection between arms trafficking and a terrorist offence
- What specific crimes did Eshati commit under UK law?
- Explain why you think this case demonstrates or fails to demonstrate a link between organized crime and terrorism.
Case Study 3: ISIS/ISIL's role in trafficking antiquities/cultural property
ISIS/ISIL has become a key player in the illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural property. In fact, it is estimated that every year Islamic State Militants in Syria and Iraq bring in between $150 million and $200 million from illicit trade in plundered antiquities and cultural property (Reuters, 2016). The University of Chicago's MANTIS (Modelling the Antiquities Trade in Iraq and Syria) research team contends that while "everyone seems to agree that the Islamic State is digging up and selling archaeological artefacts to make money, [...] no one seems to agree on how much money it's actually making from its illegal antiquities trade: amounts have ranged from $4 million to $7 billion" (Rose-Greenland, 2016). According to certain estimates, more than a third of Iraq's 12,000 important archaeological sites are now under ISIL control. At one point, ISIL involvement in trafficking was limited to taxing the sales of artefacts and charging for digging licenses, but recent reports indicate that the terrorist group has begun hiring its own diggers and establishing its own network of smugglers and middlemen.
While one of the primary motivations for ISIL participation in the trafficking of antiquities and cultural property is certainly money, the group is also known for its destruction of artefacts that represent cultural identity. In 2015, a video of ISIL fighters destroying Assyrian antiquities in the Mosul Museum in Iraq outraged the world. Analysis of the video determined that most of the destroyed artefacts were replicas, but the intention of the destruction was clear. This was an act of iconoclasm; "(the) actions were undertaken in the belief that they (ISIL) had to eradicate the use of idolatry, or representative art, which it claims is forbidden in the 'true' interpretation of Islam" (Asfour & Scott, 2015). Also, in 2015, ISIL destroyed the ancient temple of Baalshamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Again, this act of destruction was an attempt to eradicate the cultural identity of a particular community.
In an effort to counter ISIL destruction of cultural sites and artefacts, UNESCO established in March 2017 the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Zones of Conflict (ALIPH).
The Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property outlaws the "blood antiquities" trade. The Convention specifically calls attention to "terrorist groups involved in the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and use the illicit trade of cultural property as a source of financing." While these attempts to address terrorist engagement in the trafficking and destruction of antiquities and cultural property are essential to developing a comprehensive global strategy to destroy ISIL, the damage has already been done. As UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova explained in reference to the mass destruction of cultural sites in Aleppo, "The destruction of one of the greatest and more ancient cities in the world is a tragedy for all Syrians and for all humanity […] To destroy Syria's heritage is to kill the Syrian people a second time."
Case related files
- Asfour, L. and Scott, M. (2015). ISIL and the History of Destroying History, Al Jazeera (3 Mar 2015).
- Rose-Greenland, F. (2016). How Much Money has ISIS Made Selling Antiquities? More than Enough to Fund Its Attacks, Washington Post (3 June 2016).
- Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property (3 May 2017), Council of Europe Treaty Series no. 221.
- Al-Salhy, S. (2015). The Full Story Behind ISIL's Takeover of Mosul Museum, Al Jazeera (9 March 2015).
- Linking trafficking in cultural property to terrorism
- How strong do you think the evidence is that terrorist and organized criminal groups are engaging in and profiteering from criminal activities involving destruction and trafficking in cultural property?
- Why would these groups engage in destruction and trafficking in cultural property?
- What action, if any, would you recommend is taken to prevent further destruction and trafficking in cultural property?
- What is the international framework that relates to the prohibition of trafficking in cultural property? Can the Organized Crime Convention be applied - if so, how?
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