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Indian businessman charged in US with drug smuggling, money laundering offences

Indian businessman charged in US with drug smuggling, money laundering offences
Highlights

Jeetendra Harish Belani, 36, is charged with conspiracy to import Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States.

WASHINGTON: An Indian businessman has been charged in the US with conspiring to smuggle drugs into the country and commit money laundering, an American attorney has said.

Jeetendra Harish Belani, aka Jeetu, from Mumbai who has been charged with an eight-count indictment and faces a maximum sentence of not more than twenty years in prison, a fine of not more than USD 1 million or both.

Belani, 36, is charged with conspiracy to import Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and various substantive counts of drug importation, smuggling, and money laundering, US Attorney Scott W Brady said.

According to the Indictment, Belani operated a drug-distribution entity based in India called LeeHPL Ventures.

Between 2015 and 2019, Belani and his co-conspirators, through LeeHPL Ventures, allegedly imported and smuggled into the United States various drugs available only by prescription in the United States, including Tapentadol, a Schedule II controlled substance, as well as Tramadol, Carisoprodol, and Modafinil, all Schedule IV controlled substances.

The Indictment also alleges that between 2015 and mid-2017, Belani conspired with William Kulakevich and Julia Fees to unlawfully smuggle a drug known as Etizolam into the United States for re-sale by Kulakevich and Fees via a website they operated- www.etizy.com.

Etizolam is part of a class of drugs similar to benzodiazepines, which are often used to treat insomnia and anxiety and carry a potential for abuse and overdose.

To evade detection by the US Customs and Border Protection officials, Belani and his co-conspirators also allegedly used false customs declarations that mischaracterized and undervalued the contents of packages sent to the United States by LeeHPL Ventures.

In addition, according to the Indictment, Belani caused drug shipments to be broken into smaller quantities and shipped to multiple addresses to help ensure delivery and avoid interception by United States customs authorities.

Belani also caused co-conspirators to initiate payments totalling tens of thousands of dollars from accounts in the United States to accounts controlled by Belani in India or other locations outside the United States, all as a means to promote Belani's continued efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States, the Department of Justice said.

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