Bashir Noorzai, a former Mujaheddin warlord and strong ally of the Taliban, was sentenced today to life in prison on heroin importation and distribution conspiracy charges in federal court in New York today.
Noorzai, the leader of his namesake tribe - one of Afghanistan's largest and most influential - owned opium fields in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
According to the evidence presented at his trial, people working for Noorzai convert the opium into heroin at laboratories in Afghanistan's border regions. Heroin from these labs was later imported into the United States, hidden in suitcases and on ships. As early as 1990, prosecutors charged, Noorzai had a network of distributors in New York City who sold his heroin.
The trial revealed that during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, Noorzai raised his own army of Mujaheddin fighters, financed and armed with drug proceeds. After the Russian army quit Afghanistan, Noorzai ruled western Kandahar, establishing and controlling his own police, border guards and courts.