Justice Charles R. Norgle of the United States’ Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting at Illinois, has said Buruji Kashamu, a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chieftain may earn a life sentence, if found to have headed a drug syndicate that exported heroine into the United States over a decade ago.
Justice Norgle said, “If Kashamu was indeed the ringleader of the drug conspiracy, as he may have been, if convicted he could be given an even heavier sentence—quite possibly a life sentence.” The judge said that since one of Kashamu’s co-defendants was given a 10-year jail term, he (Kashamu) could earn a life sentence under the 21 U.S.C.§ adunn960(b)(1)(A) of the laws of the US for being in a conspiracy to import heroin into the country.
The judgment, reportedly delivered on 15 September, was based on an application by Kashamu seeking a writ of mandamus to quash the indictment of drug smuggling slammed on him about 16 years ago. Judge Norgle declined the application and asked Kashamu to submit himself for trial. Kashamu is praying the court to dismiss the charges since no warrant has been issued by the United States for his extradition. Kashamu also argues that the court has not granted him speedy trial, while holding that the case against him was one of a mistaken identity. But Judge Norgle stated that extraditing Kashamu may be a Herculean given his influence within the circles of power in Nigeria.
The Judge said, “Given Kashamu’s prominence in Nigerian business and government circles, and the English magistrate’s findings and conclusion, the probability of extradition may actually be low. These are reasonable concerns, but do not support the relief that he seeks from us.
“He was indicted 16 years ago. At any time during this long interval he had only to show up in the federal district court in Chicago to obtain a determination of his guilt or innocence. When a suspected criminal flees from imminent prosecution, becoming a fugitive before he is indicted, the statute of limitations on prosecuting him is suspended.
“Similarly, when a defendant flees the country to escape justice, the inference is that he didn’t want a speedy trial—he wanted no trial. And if he doesn’t want a speedy trial, he can’t complain that the judiciary didn’t give him one.”
“Should he ever come to the United States, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he could be put on trial in the Federal District Court in Chicago, since the indictment has no expiration date. An original indictment remains pending until it is dismissed or until double jeopardy or due process would forbid prosecution under it.
“How then can he argue with a straight face that the failure of the United States to extradite him entitles him to dismissal of the charges? He can’t and the petition for writ of mandamus is therefore denied,”
Kashamu had sought the US court to annul his indictment, following the decline by a magistrate to grant the US request to extradite him.