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Envoy Accused of Smuggling Heroin Into U.S.

Associated Press

A Belgian diplomat was arraigned today on charges he imported 22 pounds of heroin into the United States in diplomatic pouches, federal officials said.

U.S. Atty. Raymond J. Dearie said Ludovicus Vastenavondt, chancellor of the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi, India, and two other men were arrested on charges of importing and conspiring to import heroin.

The diplomat allegedly delivered 22 pounds of heroin worth $22 million to an undercover FBI agent in a hotel room in Queens, Dearie said.

Diplomatic Pouches Used

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“The heroin was packaged in diplomatic pouches bearing the seal of the government of Belgium, and Vastenavondt instructed the agent to destroy the pouches once the heroin was removed,” Dearie said.

He said the diplomat allegedly told the undercover agent that he expected a $100,000 fee for delivering the heroin.

Dearie said the alleged source of the heroin, Mehtab Singh Gulati, was arrested Tuesday in Montreal, and another of Gulati’s alleged couriers, Pramesthi Jain, was arrested May 31 in New York and arraigned today.

Dearie said the case was opened when confidential informants told federal authorities that Sicilian organized crime drug dealers were obtaining large quantities of heroin from India for distribution in the New York City area.

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Officials said Vastenavondt was not covered by diplomatic immunity because he is not posted to the United States.

Conviction could bring as much as 40 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine.


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