The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced on Tuesday that it had arrested an Iranian national accused of conspiring to sell hundreds of kilograms of heroin in the U.S.
Malek Mohammad Balouchzehi, 38, was detained by authorities in Nairobi, Kenya, and later taken to the U.S. on Oct. 9. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn on Tuesday.
According to the DEA, Balouchzehi is a drug trafficker who distributes methamphetamine while also manufacturing and distributing heroin. At one point in 2019, he allegedly discussed importing 400 kilograms of heroin into the U.S.
He has been charged with one count of conspiring to import heroin and one count of distributing heroin intending that the narcotics would be imported into the U.S. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of at least 10 years.
“This investigation demonstrates our collective resolve to pursue criminals who traffic in these dangerous, addictive substances,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.
“For decades, DEA’s partnerships with our law enforcement partners around the world have been the key to bringing to justice those threatening our communities. DEA will continue to bring all that we have to bear to combat and defeat the criminal drug traffickers putting Americans’ safety and health at risk," said Milgram.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the majority of the heroin that enters the U.S. originates from Mexico, with major cartels handling the cultivation and distribution of the drug. In terms of a global scale, the majority of the heroin produced in the world comes from Afghanistan, flowing outwards through neighboring countries such as Iran and being sold around the rest of the world.
Afghan heroin is also known to go through Pakistan and onwards to East African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania.
Since taking power in August, the Taliban have sought to stamp out Afghanistan's underground drug addiction problem, as The Associated Press reported last week. Taliban fighters have rounded up addicts and forced them into treatment centers, many of which currently lack funding or sufficient supplies.
The AP noted that the Taliban are believed to have profited off of Afghanistan's drug trade by taxing traffickers, though the militant group has long denied any connection to Afghanistan's opioid trade.
The Taliban are responsible for implementing the only successful ban on opium production in Afghanistan, having done so from 2000-2001, with subsequent governments failing to halt the spread of the drug.