Nigeria criticized for refusing to extradite 2 drug suspects

September 23, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A story in Wednesday's editions of The Sun incorrectl reported the amount of heroin a Nigerian drug ring is said to have imported into the United States. The amount is 60 kilograms.

The Sun regrets the errors.

U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett criticized Nigerian officials yesterday for failing to extradite two men charged with running a multimillion-dollar heroin operation.

Mr. Bennett said the men have shipped an estimated 60 million kilograms of raw heroin, with a street value of "millions of dollars" to the East Coast since the mid-1980s.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The suspects were arrested in Nigeria last spring, but a Nigerian magistrate's court denied U.S. requests for their extradition and released them in the summer.

"In terms of international law enforcement, this is a very negative message being sent out by the Nigerian government," said Mr. Bennett.

Nigerian Embassy officials could not be reached to comment.

The Nigerian court said the men could not receive a fair trial in the United States, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Zimmerman.

A federal grand jury here has indicted Greg Odilibe and Chris Okpala in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on charges of conspiracy to import and distribute heroin.

Federal prosecutors believe the men are key suppliers of heroin sold on the streets of Baltimore.

They are charged with sending drugs to the United States using people who swallow heroin-filled balloons or hide the heroin on their bodies or in their luggage.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore also has indicted a brother of each man, Sonny Odilibe and John Okpala, on conspiracy charges.

Extradition requests are still pending for each of them. Neither has been arrested.

All four men have been linked to several heroin trials in U.S. District Court and a federal money-laundering case, prosecutors said.

Mr. Zimmerman said the Odilibes and Okpalas supplied heroin to large drug organizations, including the one formerly operated by convicted drug dealer Rudy Williams.

Mr. Bennett said a federal investigation had worked its way up the drug organization and was blocked by the Nigerian court.

"We've investigated the big people at the top of the pyramid and we have met a major obstacle," he said.

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