Case to answer: U.S court declines to dismiss drug case against PDP chief, Buruj Kashamu

by Kolapo Olapoju

 

After filing an order of mandamus (motion for dismissal) on 18 August to dismiss the indictment instituted against him by a US court, for allegedly attempting to import heroin into the country 16 years ago, Prince Buruji Kashamu, Chairman of Mobilisation and Organisation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has received an unfavourable judgement.

The Northern District of Illinois court has ruled that the politician should return to the U.S to face trial. The American court, in its judgement stated two possible relief avenues for Kashamu.

“One is to return to the United States to stand trial, and at trial (or in pretrial proceedings) renew his motion for dismissal on the basis of the speedy-trial clause; were the motion denied and he convicted, he could challenge the dismissal on appeal. His other possible recourse is to obtain from us, as he is trying to do, a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to dismiss the indictment.”

“As he won’t risk the first path to relief, which would require him to come to the United States and fall into the clutches of the federal judiciary, he must rely entirely on mandamus. In opposing the petition for mandamus the Justice Department tells us that ‘the prospects for extradition [from Nigeria] have recently improved and, as a result, the government is optimistic about extraditing Kashamu.’ The implication is that Kashamu’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him is premature, as he may soon find himself in the district court in Chicago, able to present a fuller case that his right to a speedy trial is being violated‎.”

Kashamu had been indicted by a US court in 1998, which alleged that he was the kingpin of an international smuggling ring dealing in narcotics. In May 1998, Kashamu was charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Chicago, along with thirteen other persons, with conspiracy to import heroin into the United States and distribute it.

The court’s judgement also stated that Kashamu, who operated under the alias of ‘Alaji’, fled to Nigeria from England after two unsuccessful extradition proceedings in the UK.

“The government believed that Kashamu was the leader of the conspirators. He was indicted both in his own name and under what the government believed to be two aliases that he used: “Alaji” (the principal alias, the government thought) and “Kasmal.” So far as appeared, Kashamu had never entered the United States, and his current whereabouts were unknown. The government did not ask that he be tried in absentia. Eleven of the other defendants pleaded guilty, one proceeded to trial and was convicted, and another could not be found and remains a fugitive.”

“Several months after the indictment came down, Kashamu showed up in England and was arrested at our government’s request. Justice Department lawyers, working with their English counterparts, sought his extradition to the United States to stand trial. There were two extradition proceedings, both unsuccessful, ending finally in January 2003 when the presiding judge refused to order him extradited. He had been detained throughout the extradition proceedings. As soon as the judge ruled, Kashamu left England for Nigeria, where he remains.”

Following the emergence of campaign posters bearing his image around Ogun state, it is believed in various quarters that Kashamu has the intention of contesting at the gubernatorial elections of the state in 2015.

Analysts are of the opinion that he wants his lingering drug-case dismissed as soon as possible to appear blemish-free as he aims to run for the governoship of Ogun state.

Although Kashamu has been able to avoid being tried for close to two decades, Nigerians like drug baron, Rafiu Akanbi Elele has not been that lucky, as he is currently standing trial in court in the United States, over multiple suspected cases of drug trafficking.

The socialite and ardent fan of Fuji legend, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal was arrested in Lagos in March and was extradited to the United States of America, USA, by officials of the International Police Force, Interpol.

 

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