Four Queens residents were among 17 people indicted last week in what the authorities called the takedown of a worldwide ring trafficking in khat, a leaf native to Africa that people chew to get high.
The Queens defendants are Wail Seidi, 21; Nabil Seidi, 35; Mohamed Seidi, 26; and Abubaker Seidi, 39, according to a written announcement made by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The AG did not say where in Queens they live or whether they are members of the same family.
Several other defendants are from Brooklyn, more are from upstate Rochester, two are from other states and one is from England, according to the attorney general’s announcement.
The arrests, which were credited to the AG’s office, NYPD, State Police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, resulted in charges ranging from money laundering to criminal sale of a controlled substance and operating as a major trafficker. The AG’s statement did not specify which charges the Queens defendants face. Altogether, the indictment contains 215 charges.
Khat contains controlled substances similar to amphetamines, Schneiderman said. It is mostly grown in Ethiopia and Kenya and is most potent when fresh, so it must be moved here from Africa quickly, he explained. It only became illegal in the United Kingdom last week, he added.
The defendants allegedly got it in Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia and brought it here through countries including China, the United Kingdom, Holland and Belgium. They allegedly stored it at the Islamic Society of Flatbush on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, next door to an apartment shared by two of the suspects, as well as storage facilities in that borough and in Queens.
As a result of this international takedown, a sophisticated operation accused of bringing drugs into the United States and sending the profits overseas has been shut down,” Schneiderman said. “Trafficking often funds other criminal activity.”
He did not specify that activity, but British intelligence and Texas law enforcement have both said it funds terrorism.