58-year-old Nigerian pilot, Jibril Adamu, and his counterpart from the United States of America, Jean-Claude Okongo Landji, 58, are awaiting sentencing after a US jury returned guilty verdicts against them on Monday for conspiring to traffic cocaine to West Africa.
The pilots were charged for using a private jet to traffic five kilograms and more of cocaine on board an aircraft from South America to West Africa.
They were found guilty of one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine with a United States citizen on board any aircraft or registered in the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In October 2018, Landji and Adamu were arrested while conducting a test shipment and flew the G2 private jet from Mali to Croatia with one kilogram of cocaine on board after members of the Croatian National Police investigating the duo in coordination with the DEA searched the G2 following their arrival in Croatia.
Gulfstream G2 private jet owned by Landji was a United States-registered aircraft whose pilots planned to distribute multi-ton quantities of cocaine in South America, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere, a court document revealed.
According to the document – as reflected in the Indictment and the evidence presented at trial – the duo in 2017 planned to use the G2 and other aircraft “black flight” – unregistered and untraceable – figuratively flying under the radar with multi-thousand kilogram loads of cocaine from South America to West Africa to be unloaded at clandestine airstrips, including landing sites in the Sahara desert.
After the cocaine was off-loaded in Africa, the indictment stated that Adamu and his co-pilot planned to use Landji’s aviation business, incorporated in the state of Georgia, as cover for cocaine smuggling flights to Europe and elsewhere.
“Landji agreed to use his company to arrange seemingly legitimate passenger “VIP” flights to Europe for which Adamu would serve as a pilot while concealing multi-ton quantities of cocaine hidden onboard for further distribution in European countries,” Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York disclosed.
Adam and his co-conspirator further sought to evade the scrutiny of the DEA and U.S. law enforcement to avoid the U.S. justice system.
In their recorded meeting, Landji agreed to traffic cocaine by aircraft with a co-conspirator, Adamu who warned, “if you put one kilo on a plane that has the American registration, it’s the same thing as putting it in the middle of Madison Square Garden in New York. The same offence in the US justice system.”