NEW YORK Confessed international drug trafficker Baktash Akasha appears certain to be given a long prison term — possibly life without parole — at a sentencing session set for today in a New York courtroom.
Presiding Judge Victor Marrero said at a hearing last month that he is “inclined” to accept the prosecutors’ claim of Baktash’s involvement in the 2014 contract murder of a South African drug gangster identified only as Pinky.
But while the killing of Pinky qualifies as the main element in the prosecution’s narrative of the brothers as brutal mobsters, government lawyers have also accused Baktash of murdering his former wife, torturing one of his children, contracting for the murder of his father’s assassin and entering into weapon deals with al-Shabaab.
“Baktash’s violent episodes were not limited to his attacks on other drug traffickers,” US prosecutors stated in a court document filed before a July 25 and 26 hearing.
“Baktash was regularly violent toward his family as well. (Vijay) Goswami witnessed Baktash, for example, tie his teenage son to a tree, beat him, and brand him with a burning metal rod,” the document says.
Goswami, a confessed Akasha associate, agreed to become a government witness.
“The son was hospitalised for his injuries but survived. Baktash’s former wife was not so lucky. Goswami was told by both Ibrahim and Baktash’s current wife that Baktash killed his former wife,” the document adds.
The elder Akasha brother is further said to have arranged for the killing in Amsterdam in 2001 of a man identified as the assassin of his father, a drug dealer who had been shot dead in the same city a year earlier. “The Akashas also trafficked weapons with members of the terrorist organisation al-Shabaab,” US attorneys stated. “Ibrahim and Baktash each described to Goswami how Ibrahim was travelling to the area of Kenya’s border with Somalia to purchase weapons from al-Shabaab.
“Ibrahim and Baktash showed Goswami stashes of the al-Shabaab weapons at Baktash’s home — which included machine guns and hand grenades. Baktash told Goswami that he worked with an Italian man who brokered the sale of the al-Shabaab-supplied weapons to cargo-ship crews that docked in Mombasa.”
Recorded conversations between the Akasha brothers and an undercover US drug-enforcement agent substantiate some of these claims, according to prosecutors. They also cite Goswami’s testimony in support of their allegations of violent behaviour on the part of both Akasha brothers.
Defence attorneys, however, have challenged Goswami’s statements on the grounds that he is a confessed murderer and drug trafficker who, they say, has lied about the Akashas in exchange for leniency for his own crimes.
Baktash’s sentencing session is scheduled to begin at 6:30pm, Kenyan time, today. US government attorneys argued at the July 25 and 26 hearing that the judge “must consider the full context of the Akashas’ crimes” in deciding what length of sentence to impose.
Ibrahim will be sentenced by Judge Marrero in November.