by Kolapo Olapoju
A Nigerian man, Koyode Lawrence, was sentenced to nearly 25-years in prison on Tuesday, 30 September, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import a controlled substance.
Lawrence, who is believed to have run one of the most expansive heroin smuggling networks ever uncovered in Houston’s main airport, was sentenced in a Houston federal courtroom.
The case commenced in February 2001 when two men working for Lawrence were arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The arrested pair had swallowed packets of heroin being smuggled from Nigeria.
He led a Lagos Island-based trafficking organization that used high-school and college-aged Americans to swallow dozens of rubberized capsules full of heroin in order to sneak them into the United States while aboard commercial plane flights.
Prosecutors say the 45-year-old Lawrence mainly recruited college students with dual US and Nigerian citizenship for his smuggling ring. Court testimony revealed that Lawrence personally evaluated “swallowers” to see whether they had the stomachs for the business, according to court papers and testimony.
He fought extradition for nearly 10 years but was transferred to the US in late 2013.
Meanwhile, the United States is about to commence extradition proceedings against a PDP South West leader, believed to be Prince Buruj Kashamu. On Wednesday, 1 October, a U.S official disclosed that Kashamu has evaded prosecution also for over a decade.
The PDP Chieftain, alongside 14 others were in 1998 charged by a federal grand jury for their alleged involvement in an international conspiracy to smuggle heroin into the US. Although Kashamu denied allegations and fled the US to the United Kingdom, before he returned to Nigeria, the US judiciary has since been trying to extradite him for a trial.
In 2009, Kashamu, who is a major campaigner for President Jonathan in the South West, through a local counsel in the U.S, filed that allegations held against him be quashed, on the ground that an English court had found him not guilty, but the Court of Appeal in the US on 15 September dismissed an appeal filed by the accused seeking to quash his indictment.
Subsequently, he filed an order of mandamus (motion for dismissal) on 18 August to dismiss the indictment instituted against him, but the Chairman of Mobilisation and Organisation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) received an unfavourable judgement.
The Northern District of Illinois court ruled that the politician should return to the U.S to face trial.