While he was in jail in the United Kingdom contesting a request by United States authorities to have him extradited to face drug trafficking charges, Buruji Kashamu, a former senator who represented Ogun East District, obtained information about the 9/11 attacks and tried to pass it over to the U.S. government, court documents recently obtained by PREMIUM TIMES have revealed.
The September 11, 2001 attacks were a series of coordinated attacks by terrorists who flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and into a field, a near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks, which the U.S. government said were carried out by the Osama bin Laden-led group, Al Qaeda, killed nearly 3,000 people and left 25,000 others injured.
On December 18, 1998, the UK’s Metropolitan Police arrested Mr Kashamu, who was travelling with a Benin passport. Police found $230,000 in cash in Mr Kashamu’s possession. Meanwhile, he had seven months earlier been indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to import heroin into the U.S.
Mr Kashamu was indicted following incriminating evidence provided by three of his alleged co-conspirators. They alleged that the man they said was also known as “Alaji” or “God” was the leader of the heroin smuggling ring. Mr Kashamu was detained at the Brixton Prison pending the completion of his extradition process which had been initiated by the United States’ Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
Mr Kashamu says he was not the leader of the drug-smuggling conspiracy. He has claimed that the so-called “Alaji”, the drug-smuggling kingpin was his brother, Adewale Kashamu, who was allegedly killed in 1989 by the personnel of the Nigerian Customs. He says he shared a striking resemblance with his deceased brother.
On January 10, 2003, Timothy Workman, a magistrate in the UK, dismissed the extradition request put forward by the United States, stating among other things that Mr Kashamu indeed had a similar-looking brother who was killed in 1989 by Customs officials. The Magistrate also found that certain assertions by the U.S. government in the extradition proceedings were untrue. He subsequently ordered the release of Mr Kashamu.
However, the United States has not relented in its quest in extraditing Mr Kashamu to the U.S. to face trial for the alleged heroin-smuggling conspiracy he led. It argued that it is not bound by Mr Workman’s conclusion that Mr Kashamu’s brother was the co-conspirator because “Kashamu’s extradition proceeding was a preliminary proceeding and not a proceeding in which the full merits, and the full evidence, were considered.”
“Magistrate Workman himself recognized that this Court and the jury were the ultimate determiners of the credibility of the witnesses, including on the issue of Kashamu’s identification as the leader of the heroin smuggling conspiracy, and that his decision was limited to the matter before him,” it stated in its response to a 2009 application by Mr Kashamu at a United States District Court Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division.
The U.S. government said “The government believes in good faith that Kashamu, and not any alleged brother, is the co-conspirator in this case” because two members of the Kashamu’s alleged heroin-smuggling ring, Catherine and Ellen Wolters, “independently identified Kashamu, through his arrest photograph, as the person whom they knew as “Alaji.” The government, to the undersigned attorney’s knowledge, has never received any photograph of the alleged brother and has been unable to test the veracity of Kashamu’s claim about him.”
As recent as 2015, the U.S. government attempted to extradite Mr Kashamu using the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) but the attempt was aborted by an order of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Kashamu offers to provide information about 9/11 attacks
According to an affidavit he swore to on February 2, 2009, Mr Kashamu said while he was being held in prison, he shared a cell with a “Muslim radical” who told him that there were plans to bomb the United States.
“I informed my Chicago lawyer, Thomas Durkin, of this information and he informed the appropriate authorities. We received no response,” he wrote.
He added that after the 9/11 bombings he was contacted by a United States Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, to provide details of what he had been told by his cellmate.
“I was told that if I pleaded guilty to the case (heroin smuggling) and provided information that I knew regarding the bombing of the World Trade Centre, I could receive a favourable plea bargain. I could not accept the offer because I am not guilty of the case,” he wrote.
A handwritten letter by S.J Humphrys, an officer at the Brixton prison written on December 30, 2001, also confirmed that Mr Kashamu met officers from Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, in respect of the said information he was told about the 9/11 attacks.
“I can confirm that D.S Andy Weld and D.C Richard Jordan from Scotland Yard (SO12 anti-terrorist Squad) came to see Mr Kashamu on 28/9/2001 and spoke at length with me present with regard to the horrific events of September 11th in New York. The meeting concluded with Mr Kashamu handing over approximately three pages of topical terrorist information,” he wrote.
“The two SO I2 officers returned at a later date collecting a further seven pages of additional terrorist information. The two officers finally came on 6/11/2001 for a further meeting with Mr Kashamu, they thank(ed) Mr Kashamu for the information and I stated it was extremely useful they then continue to ask about terrorists living in London who were linking with a terrorist that had been arrested in Washington.
“They further stated that the U.S government were requesting that Mr Kashamu would continue to give further evidence against those terrorists in a US court. In concluding this …meeting they confirmed that the US government found the information extremely valuable.
“I can once again confirm that all those information was handed over with me present as a witness to the above proceedings,” he wrote.
On August 21, 2002, in response to a request by Mr Kashamu, his U.S. lawyer, Mr Durkin, wrote a letter to Mr Kashamu about his offer to cooperate with the United States authorities “regarding information you might have with respect to activities of interest to them.”
Mr Durkin stated that his record showed that later in March 2001 he had several conversations with Mr Fitzgerald regarding information connected to the World Trade Centre bombing case.
“My record also reflected the fact that on September 21, 2001, I received on your behalf a “proffer” letter from the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois regarding the terms of a meeting you were to have with the US agents regarding potential information concerning the attacks which occurred in New York and Virginia on September 11, 2001. This meeting took place at Brixton on October 2, 2001.
“At the meeting, Patrick Blegen of our firm forwarded eleven pages of documents to Special Agent Joe hummer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Copies of these documents were sent by facimile to me by Assistant U.S Attorney Diane MacArthur on October 3, 2001. I have maintained copies of these documents in our files, and at your request copies were forwarded to you by one of our assistants on May 22, 2002,” he wrote.
U.S. promises not to use Kashamu’s testimony against him
On September 21, 2001, Mr Fitzgerald wrote Mr Durkin about the said information his client (Mr Kashamu) offered to share with US authorities.
“As you have discussed with Assistant United States Attorney Diane MacArthur, the government is conducting an investigation into the attacks which occurred at the World Trade Centre in New York City and the Pentagon Building in Virginia on September 11, 2001.
“Of course, the government welcomes any information that may aid it in reaching a proper determination of the matter. Accordingly, the government seeks a proffer of the testimony of your client, Buruji Kashamu, regarding his knowledge of the facts underlying this matter.”
He explained that the U.S. government required that the statement to be given by Mr. Kashamu should be “completely truthful” while adding that “anything revealed to the government by you or your client, during the proffer cannot and will not be used against your client, Buruji Kashamu, in the government’s case-in-chief at trial, in the extradition proceeding pending against Kashamu… or in aggravation of your client’s sentence, in accordance with sentencing guideline 202.8.”
Contrary to My Kashamu’s claim in his affidavit that he was offered to provide the information for an offer of a plea bargain, which will lead to a reduced sentence, Mr Fitzgerald stated that the government is “completely free to pursue any and all investigative (illegible word) derived in any way from the proffer, which could result in the requisition of evidence admissible against your client.”
“Furthermore, if your client should subsequently testify contrary to the substance of the proffer, or otherwise present a position inconsistent with the proffer at sentencing for any purpose, nothing shall prevent the government from using the substance of the proffer at sentencing for the purpose, at a trial for impeachment or in rebuttal testimony, in a prosecution for perjury, or in this pending extradition proceeding.”
The letter did not say anything about a plea bargain leading to a reduction of jail term upon sentencing.