Twisted tale of double-crossing and corruption
The Nigerians thought they were smart. Little did they know that the Pakistanis—on the right side of the law and the wrong—would chew them up and spit them out.
This case had actually gone into cold storage. No one knew what had happened. It was only when it went to court that a sequence of events were set in motion. The faintest whiff came when someone posted on the crime reporters WhatsApp group on February 27 at 9:56pm that the SHO and SIO of Defence police station in Karachi had been arrested.
On the afternoon of November 14 last year, a WhatsApp call from an international number was made to the Karachi police complaint number. The caller, who the police said could not speak in English properly, said that some foreigners were being held hostage in a house in Karachi. The caller gave the hostage’s Pakistani SIM contact number through which the police tracked down the address.
The operator dispatched this alarming tip over the wireless at about 5pm and because of borderline jurisdictions, two mobile units simultaneously exited the Gizri and Defence police stations to both arrive at the address in DHA Phase VII extension. It emerged that the location fell in the Defence police’s remit.
The police banged on the door and a man named Adeeb Shah opened it. Inside the guest house the police found three Nigerian nationals, in an unharmed state. They identified themselves as Agoji Samuel Agocheckov, Lucky Abu Roha and Anorome Amika. Another man on the premises, Haji Imran, was found with a pistol.
The police hauled the entire platoon off for questioning to Defence police station where Agoji registered an FIR against their kidnapping.
He told the police that in Nigeria he had a friend called Mike who told him Haji Imran would introduce him to garments manufacturers who would do business. Agoji flew into Pakistan on May 1 and called Haji Imran as soon as he landed in Karachi.
A man called Riaz picked Agoji from the airport and took him to some place he could not identify. It was there that he was stripped of his passport, mobile phone and Nigerian SIM card. His abductors told him that Mike owed them $50,000 and Agoji wasn’t going anywhere until the payment was made. Agoji was put on the phone with Mike who admitted he owed money but then he then turned off his phone and hasn’t switched it back on since then.
Agoji told the police that a few days later Haji Imran shifted him to another location, where he met two other Nigerians. After three months, Haji Imran allowed him to make a video call to his family to ask for the ransom of $50,000. This call was made apparently from a Pakistani SIM.
Then on November 14, the police suddenly came and rescued them.
The next day the Defence police produced the Nigerians, Adeeb Shah and Haji Imran in an anti-terrorism court as it was a kidnapping for ransom case. Adeeb Shah and Haji Imran gave their statements as well. According to Defence SIO Muhammad Waseem Abro, the magistrate said that if the three Nigerian men wanted to go, they were free to.
That is where the story starts to unravel.
The Nigerians have disappeared into thin air. The men from the guest house, Adeeb Shah and Haji Imran, were still in custody for kidnapping. Adeeb Shah applied for bail in the Sindh High Court. He moaned: if the kidnapping victim who filed the FIR has vanished, why am I still behind bars? And indeed, the complainant Agoji who registered the kidnapping FIR was nowhere to be found.
The SHC chief justice said, hold on a second, what kind of investigation is this? Where is the complainant? Technically, the Nigerians should have been handed over to their embassy once rescued. The chief justice said that the investigation stank. He summoned Additional IG Ghulam Nabi Memon and CIA DIG Arif Hanif and ordered them to reopen the case and report back to the court with a proper reinvestigation. Additional IG Karachi SSP South Javed Akbar Riaz was tasked to head the inquiry and he was assisted by SSP Investigation South Imran Mirza and SSP AVCC Abdullah Ahmed.
The inquiry team got to work. And one of the first things they discovered is that Defence SIO Waseem Abro had been lying. Fortunately, Adeeb Shah sang like a canary on the real story of how the Nigerians were kidnapped.
The Nigerians are part of an international drug smuggling network that stretches from Nigeria to Afghanistan via some Gulf countries and runs through Balochistan, according to AVCC SSP Abdullah Ahmed. This is what the inquiry team has discovered so far but the investigation is far from over.
Massive quantities of drugs are produced in Afghanistan but because it is landlocked, smugglers have to use Pakistan to make their drop to the world. At the border, the drugs reach Balochistan and are then transported to Europe and Africa by sea. The handlers in Balochistan are generally believed to be based in Turbat, Gwadar and Makran.
Fishermen are an important part of the equation. The drugs are loaded into ships and boats that have left Makran for fishing. There is a set-up at sea with fishermen handing the drugs over to the network while in the water and returning to the coast with their catch.
A police officer working on this organized crime said that they are working with the FIA on tracing the money. “The information, the police retrieved through its sources, suggests that the smugglers have agents in Gulf countries who receive money from the buyers and transfer it to the smugglers in Pakistan via hawala-hundi. The travel history of the suspects associated with this network suggests they frequently visit Dubai, Muscat, Oman and Qatar.”
When a buyer in Nigeria makes a deal with a Pakistani seller, he dispatches a Nigerian as “human collateral” until the payment is received. That is where Agoji comes in. He was sent to Karachi until the hawal-hundi transaction of a big haul was made.
According to the underworld rules, the human collateral are put up in luxury accommodation by the party selling the drugs. They stay there till the drugs reach the destination and the buyer makes the payment. In Agoji’s case, however, supposedly $50,000 had not been paid and the Pakistani sellers took him hostage.
“One shipment had gone and they had said they wanted the second shipment,” said DIG CIA Arif Hanif. “But [the Pakistan-based smugglers] said that since the payment for the first shipment was not made, they would not send the second. They said they would not release their guy.”
This is where the Nigerians got clever. Once they realized three of their men had been taken hostage, they decided to call the Karachi police. This is when someone made the WhatsApp call to the police complaint number that led to the discovery of Agoji and the other Nigerians at the house in DHA.
The Nigerians had hoped that once their men had been rescued, the police would set them free. However, the Pakistani network was also active.
AVCC SSP Abdullah Ahmed discovered in the course of the investigation that when the police raided the house, Haji Imran alerted the Pakistani smuggler network. They dispatched a man called Dilbar Milano to clean up the mess.
Dilbar Milano had to retrieve the Nigerians before they were released by the police. His frontman Jani got him in contact with Defence SHO Muhammad Ali. The SHO told his SIO Waseem Abro, “kaam wallah case he.” This is coptalk for a cow you can milk. The SIO and SHO cut a deal for Rs10 million with Dilbar Milano, which was handed over in a bag at a highway hotel. The challenge was to free the Nigerians from law-enforcement custody but not let them leave Pakistan to go back to the buyer side.
SHO Muhammad Ali knew how the law worked. The complainant in this case was the person who made the tip-off but as they were not available or known to the police, the law stipulates that the State could become the complainant in the FIR. But what SHO Muhammad Ali did was get only one Nigerian, Agoji, to file the FIR as a complainant. That way, if he disappeared, the case would dissolve.
What should have happened is that when the magistrate said the Nigerians were free to go, the police should have handed them over to the embassy. Instead the SIO got Dilbar Milano to sign an undertaking on a ‘halfnama’ paper and he handed over the Nigerians on November 18. Dilbar Milano took the three Nigerians and whisked them off to Balochistan. The FIA later discovered, according to AVCC SSP Abdullah, that one of them later left Pakistan. Two of them are untraced. Everything that SIO Abro had said was a veil of deception. Agoji’s statement had been complete lies.
The inquiry team has submitted its report to the court. AVCC SSP Abdullah said that Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Justice Omar Sial appreciated the efforts made by the team for uncovering an international drugs smuggling network.
“The chief justice directed the additional IGP to get to the mastermind and their operator and put them behind bars,” SSP Abdullah added.
Dilbar Milano acquired pre-arrest bail but on March 8, his bail will be either confirmed or rejected. Three other men have been arrested from this network: Saleem Rind, Abid, Dad Shah.
Representatives of the Balochistan police, FIA, Anti-Narcotics Force and nominees of other security agencies will be further investigating the drug ring. This story is far from over.