Sequel to an AP publication titled “A man indicted in US for drug deal elected senator in Nigeria”, the man in reference Senator-elect, Prince Buruji Kashamu has responded to Associated Press report on his alleged drug indictment in the US. The politician and businessman insists he was not the man indicted. The following are his enumerated response:
1. My attention has been drawn to a syndicated report by Associated Press (AP) entitled “A man indicted in US for drug deal elected senator in Nigeria”.
- First, it should be noted that this is part of a renewed campaign of calumny and propaganda that I have anticipated and I am prepared for.
- I wish to state for the umpteenth time that I am not man who was indicted in the said case. It was a certain “ALAJI” and not me, Prince Buruji Kashamu.
- Also, contrary to the AP’s account, after the failed extradition attempts by the United States government against me in the United Kingdom – that has one of the best judiciary in the whole world – there has never been any request or court order to that effect in Nigeria. It only exists in the wild imagination of AP’s correspondent.
- There cannot be an order of extradition of a suspect from any country to another country without extradition proceedings. It is trite knowledge that an order of court only arises from a court proceedings. If a court has not exercised its jurisdiction over a matter, it cannot make an order pertaining to that matter.
- I, Prince Buruji Kashamu, between 1998 and 2003, was the suspect in the extradition proceedings instituted by the United States government against me in the British courts, and at the end of the trial, the British High Court per Justice Tim Workman, discharged and acquitted me on the basis of his findings that the US government suppressed information that exonerated me of the allegations that formed the basis of the extradition proceedings; precisely that it was a case of mistaken identity which the U.S investigators and prosecution team knew about but suppressed in their bid to secure my extradition from the UK to the US.
- It is noteworthy – and this is a point which my detractors have deliberately chosen to ignore – that the facts constituting the extradition proceedings in the UK which I was subjected to, but eventually exculpated of, are the same facts which constitute the indictment in the US that my opponents and others acting out of ignorance of the true state of affairs have been trumpeting as if there are two sets of indictments – one in the UK and another in the US – and that having been discharged and acquitted of the one in the UK, I now have that in the US to contend with.
- In other words, it is the same indictment that my opponents are talking about that the US government used as the basis for my extradition proceedings in the UK courts. So, if I was discharged and acquitted of the allegations in the said proceedings which other trial am I expected to undergo in the US when it was not a case of more than one set of indictment whereby I was tried and discharged in respect of one while another set is still pending in the US for which I am required to undergo trial?
- To be noted also is the fact that the US government did not appeal the decision of the UK court that discharged and acquitted me in respect of the charges.
- And as I have often stated, I have never lived in or visited the United States of America and have never been involved in any narcotics or criminal activities in the United States of America.
- I am a free citizen of Nigeria, an employer of labour and a politician with legitimate sources of income. I do not have anything to hide. I am neither afraid of anyone nor am I running away from the law. I have lived my life in the open and will continue to do so.
The Background to the case
- In 1998, as a result of my political activities in the Republic of Benin I was wrongly introduced into an indictment in the Northern District of Illinois, United States of America involving a group of drug pushers, members of which had been arrested and convicted in 1994 in the US and as a part of a plea bargain transaction had indicated that they had a West African link.
- None of these confessed criminals mentioned my name (Prince Buruji Kashamu) and repeatedly indicated to their jailers that they did not know their West African accomplice by any other name than “ALAJI”
- Apparently the US Embassy in Benin, which was facilitating the enquiry by the US Authorities as to who the “ALAJI” could be, somehow received information from some mischief-makers that it was me. That was how my name was introduced into the indictment in 1998 by the US authorities.
- All this happened without reference to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Nigeria or in the other relevant West African countries in which the enquiries were being made and unknown to me who at the time regularly visited the United Kingdom in pursuit of my cotton trading business in Liverpool.
- On one of such trips in 1998, I was accosted at the City Airport in London and eventually informed that there was an international warrant for my arrest issued by the United States.
- I was therefore detained and an application for my extradition to the US was made to the British Courts by the US authorities through the British Crown Prosecution Service.
- I declared from the moment of my arrest that I was not the person involved in the alleged narcotics business and that this was a case of mistaken identity.
- As a result, an identification parade was conducted by the British authorities in which the leader of the confessed criminals in the US, one Nick Fillmore, clearly stated that I was not the man they knew as “ALAJI”
- However, the US authorities decided not to reveal this information to the British court and were able to secure an order in their favour in 1998 for my extradition to the US.
- Fortunately for me, the result of the identification parade came into the hands of my lawyers early in 1999 before I could be shipped off to the US and they immediately commenced an Habeas Corpus action in the English High Court, Queens Bench division, for my release and the vacation of the committal order made by the Court.
- The English High Court in December 1999 delivered its judgment read by Lord Justice Pill, and summarized the facts as follows:
“What has now emerged, with a letter from the United States’ Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, is a report of an investigation into the case against the applicant conducted on 9 February 1999. The report stated insofar as material, that on 8 February 1999, Fillmore viewed a photo lineup for the purpose of identifying Kashamu. The meeting was held in the US Attorney’s office. An officer of the Attorney had received a copy of an arrest photograph of Kashamu from another officer. The report continues that the officer
‘…took the copy of the arrest photograph and placed in a DEA form 470, photo identification folder, with seven photographs of black males. These black males had similar facial hair and were the approximate age of Kashamu. This photo lineup was shown to Fillmore. Fillmore provided the following statements: ‘it is not jumping out at me, I know what the man looks like.’ Fillmore further stated that photograph #03 looked like a bad photograph of him. Photos #02, #04, #06, #07 and #08 did not look like him at all. Fillmore stated that #05 looked a lot like him but did not look like him. Fillmore ruled out photograph #01. Fillmore stated that #05 looked the closest like Alaji’
That is the name by which Fillmore knew his co-conspirator. ‘The arrest photograph of Kashamu was placed in position #07 of the photo lineup.’
I add by way of comment that that was one of the photographs which Fillmore said did not look like the co-conspirator at all. A photograph of the applicant, the arrest photograph, taken upon the applicant’s arrest about three years after the events relevant to the alleged conspiracy, had been shown Fillmore on 8 February, with that result.
No reference was made to the 9 February report in the Statement prepared by the United States Government for the application for extradition. It was mentioned neither in the United States Attorney’s statement nor in the Statement signed by Fillmore. The arrest photograph was disclosed but no reference was made to its potentially exculpatory effect.”
- In that judgment the judges then proceeded to set aside the committal order having further found as follows in the judgment: “The committal order, must in the circumstances, be quashed by reason of the unfairness of the proceedings resulting from the non-disclosure of crucial evidence, as accepted by the government. The writ of habeas corpus will, accordingly issue”.
- The US authorities did not appeal that decision but immediately had me rearrested and commenced a second extradition process against him at the Bow Street Magistrate Court in England before District Judge Tim Workman.
- In his judgment, delivered in the second extradition proceedings on the 10th of January 2003, District Judge Tim Workman found as follows: “As a result of the evidence that the Defence has placed before me and the evidence which the Government has tendered in rebuttal, I find the following facts: that the defendant has a brother, Alhaji Adewale Adeshina Kashamu who bears a striking resemblance to that of his brother; I am satisfied that the defendant’s brother was one of the co-conspirators in the drugs importation which involved Catherine and Ellen Wolters; I am satisfied that the defendant informed both interpol and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the activities of this group.”
- The judge in concluding his judgment went on to state as follows: “certain of the assertions made by the government are untrue ……I am satisfied that the overwhelming evidence here is such that the identification evidence, already tenuos, has now been so undermined as to make it incredible and valueless. In those circumstances there is no prima facie case against the defendant and I propose to discharge him”
- The US authorities did not appeal this decision and have not pursued me or made any other attempt to extradite me since that decision.
- All these facts are now matters of public record and the relevant documents (including the judgments of the courts are available for scrutiny by anyone who is interested in knowing the truth.
- In 2008, some politicians (in a bid to neutralize me, perceived as a threat to their ambitions) commenced a campaign of calumny against me alleging that I was a convicted drug dealer who had been jailed in the United Kingdom for 5 years for drug-related offences and was wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America for similar offences.
- The Interpol department of the Nigerian Police Force conducted investigations upon the allegations and published a report dated 4th March, 2008, and signed by ACP Haruna H. Mshelia, in which it stated inter alia
“That all our letters written to Interpol London, Lyon, Washington and Cotonou relating to enquiries on criminal/drug/conviction records of the suspect were returned negative to the effect that the suspect was never convicted of such offence in their territory.”
- I commenced several lawsuits as a result of this attack on my person. Most of the lawsuits were commenced in 2010 in Libel.
- Faced with these circumstances, and in a desperate bid to find justification for their false allegations, these politicians began to pressurize the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to resuscitate the misdirected US indictment against me in Nigeria and to instigate an extradition process against me on the baseless accusations.
- When I became aware of these moves, I commenced an action at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the AGF seeking an interpretation of the Nigerian Extradition Act and determination of some questions as to whether the AGF could exercise his powers under that Act against me in the context of the findings of the British Courts that I am not the person involved in the alleged narcotics transaction and in view of a decision of the US Court of the northern District of Illinois, delivered in 2009 (upon my application to the US court to remove my name from the indictment) confirming that I was not a fugitive from justice in America.
- The Federal High Court in this Suit No. FHC/L/CS/938/2010 in its judgment found that the AGF could not exercise any power against me under the Nigerian Extradition Act when I had been found not to be involved in any alleged crime in the US and because I am not a fugitive.
- The AGF appealed against this judgment on the ground that he had received no request from the U.S. Government for my extradition before the suit was filed and therefore, since none of my rights had been breached, the action was pre-mature.
- The decision of the Court of Appeal was based on this narrow issue and it agreed with the AGF that since I did not prove that a request had been made against me to the AGF, then my personal right had not been breached and therefore the court action was pre-mature.
- I have been advised that the decision is erroneous in law and an appeal was therefore filed to set it aside and restore the decision of the Federal High Court. That appeal is still pending at the Supreme Court.
- A second action filed against Nigerian law enforcement agencies, including the Nigeria Police Force and the AGF in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/49/2010, eventually went on to judgment delivered on the 6th of January 2014. In that judgment, the court found that in view of the judgments of the British courts and the Interpol investigation report, the law enforcement agencies and the Attorney-General of the Federation could not act against me on any of the allegations being made by the politicians against me.
- That judgment is still valid and subsisting and binding on all the law enforcement agencies.
- With regard to the indictment and ensuing litigation in the United States District Court of Northern Illinois; this has also been used by my detractors to give the false impression that I am actively being pursued by the U.S. authorities to face trial in the U.S.
- In reality, I am the one who has been actively pursuing the dismissal of this insupportable indictment against me.
- It is important to bear in mind, first of all, that an indictment is not a conviction or finding of guilt of any offence, it is merely an accusation based on suspicion and is a framed charge, which is brought before a competent court which must proceed from the fundamental premise that the accused is innocent until proved guilty.
- Normally, in American Criminal Procedure Law, an indictment is framed by a grand jury (a body of 23 laymen chosen at random) before which the investigation results of the relevant law enforcement agency is placed by the prosecutor in order that the Grand Jury may determine if there is sufficient evidence to base a reasonable suspicion upon which the persons accused of an offence may be charged to court to face a criminal trial.
- Therefore, the fact that a person is indicted does not make him/her a criminal.
Prince Buruji Kashamu
Senator-elect, Ogun East Senatorial District
16th April, 2015