Saturday, May 19, 2012
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Thirteen men and women have been convicted of smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of the illegal African drug khat (COT).
The convictions came Thursday in federal court in Alexandria following a monthlong trial.
Authorities said when they made the arrests last year it was one of the largest khat smuggling rings they had ever disrupted, importing nearly 10,000 pounds, worth roughly $5 million, into the U.S.
Khat is popular in parts of the Middle East and Africa, where users chew the leaf to release stimulants that produce a mild high. All 13 defendants were natives of Somalia or Yemen.
Frank Salvato, one of the defendants’ lawyers, said an appeal is under consideration. Among other issues, he said it’s unclear that all 13 defendants truly received individual consideration from the jury.