File picture

Pretoria - Edwin Elochukwu Anyaoku - a suspected mastermind of an international drug-smuggling operation who was arrested last year in Fourways, Johannesburg, has been extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges.

Spokesperson for the elite crime fighting unit of the South African Police Service, the Hawks, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the 54-year-old Nigerian national, was extradited on Thursday.

Anyaoku was arrested in a joint police investigation by the Hawks’ South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (SANEB) and Crime Intelligence (Counter Narcotics) and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which resulted in the seizure of 29 kilograms of heroin worth more than R6 million.

"Anyaoku was arrested with other two suspects, Lerato Diannah Mohai, 42, the alleged courier and Christopher Okonkwo, 53, who was the suspected scout," said Mulaudzi.

"Okonkwo successfully made a representation to the Randburg Regional Court last year and after careful consideration his matter was withdrawn. However, the case against Mohai is ongoing at the same court. It is [set] for trial on 16 July 2019.

"The investigation into the group started in 2017. An undercover operation was set where Anyaoku allegedly agreed to supply heroin. Anyaoku brought 29 kilograms of heroin and after the purchase, he was arrested together with Mohai and Okonkwo."

Mulaudzi said a request was received from the US Justice Department for the extradition of Anyaoku late last year. 

The extradition hearing took place in December and Anyaoku decided to waive his right to appeal against the extradition. In April the extradition was authorised by the SA justice and constitutional development minister.

Anyaoku was extradited to the US with the assistance of Interpol in Pretoria.

African News Agency (ANA)