Thursday, April 16, 2015

Alleged drug dealer Buruji Kashamu electected senator in Nigeria

A man indicted in America for allegedly smuggling heroin in a court case that was the basis for the TV hit "The New Orange is Black" has been elected a senator in Nigeria.

Buruji Kashamu was little known before he returned home in 2003 from Britain despite a U.S. extradition order to become a major financier of President Goodluck Jonathan's party.

Election results posted late Wednesday identify Kashamu as a senator-elect in southwest Ogun state. Opponents are challenging his victory in court, saying ballots were rigged.

Kashamu, 56, hung up the phone twice when the AP called for comment on Thursday. Kashamu has said the 1998 indictment by a grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the United States is a case of mistaken identity, He has said Chicago prosecutors really want the dead brother he closely resembles. A British court refused a U.S. extradition request in 2003, ruling there was uncertainty about Kashamu's identity.

A dozen people were long ago tried and jailed in the case, including American Piper Kerman, whose memoir about her jail time became the Netflix hit "Orange Is The New Black."

A Nigerian federal court last year ordered Kashamu's extradition, an order upheld by an appeals court. But Nigeria's government has not extradited him.

That failure to act caused Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, to warn that "drug barons ... will buy candidates, parties and eventually buy power or be in power themselves."

Jonathan's perceived protection of Kashamu was a factor that led Obasanjo to defect before recent elections to the opposition that won most votes in Obasanjo's home state of Ogun. The results included the governorship and eight of 11 seats in the House of Assembly.

Kashamu is suing Obasanjo for libel over statements that Kashamu is a fugitive from U.S. justice. He had won a court order halting publication of Obasanjo's autobiography but a judge this week rescinded it, saying Kashamu had misled the court. Obasanjo's lawyer argued that the truth cannot be libel.

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, has promised to wage war on corruption.


Related story: Video - How ex-governor of Delta state James Ibori started as petty thief in London

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