News24

Mozambican seeks removal from drug list

2011-03-31 11:42

Johannesburg - A prominent Mozambican wants American investigators to come to his southern African country so he can prove to them he should not be on a US list of drug kingpins, his Washington lawyer said Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, lawyer Erich Ferrari said it won't be easy to clear Mohamed Bachir Suleman. In June, Ferrari's client was added to a list that includes Latin American drug lords and Dawood Ibrahim, India's most-wanted organised crime suspect.

Since 2001, more than 450 people and organisations have been removed from the list after proving to the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, that their activities or circumstances have changed. Ferrari says it can take time to get off the list, which currently has thousands of names.

"We're talking years," said Ferrari, who said he has handled nine similar cases but would not say how often he has been successful. "People languish on this list for years and years before OFAC makes any decision."

The US Treasury Department says Suleman, a well-known figure in business and politics in Mozambique, is a "large-scale narcotics trafficker" and money launderer.

The United States has periodically expressed alarm that international traffickers are increasingly using Mozambique as a transit point to move heroin and other drugs mostly from south Asia into Europe.

There are concerns Mozambique, with its long, porous border and reputation for official corruption, could end up like Guinea-Bissau on the continent's west - controlled by a violent elite propped up by drug money.

Ferrari said his client is not involved, and has pleaded for Americans to come to investigate his businesses, which include a major shopping mall in Mozambique's capital, Maputo. Ferrari said he has submitted tax and other documents to Treasury in hopes of showing all Suleman's earnings are legal.

Tenants have left the mall and banks have refused to deal with Suleman sine the US kingpin declaration, Ferrari said. He added that his client was suffering from an undisclosed illness before the declaration, and that that has "been exacerbated by the stress of this situation".