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Feds: PA Man Nabbed Collecting 950 Pounds Of Khat At Newark Airport

Khat Photo Credit: CBP

A Pennsylvania man was arrested by federal agents when he showed up at Newark Airport to collect a half-ton of khat that was flown in by freight container, authorities said.

Azeez Adebari, 46, of Harrisburg, was listed as the consignee on a manifest and other documents the claimed the contents as clothing, ground melon and pepper, among other things, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig

U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities charged Adebari with conspiring to possess and distribute 430 kilograms (948 pounds) of the illegal drug after taking him into custody at the airport on Monday, Honig said.

A U.S. District Court magistrate judge ordered him detained via videoconference, she said.

The khat seized has a street value of somewhere over $115,000, based on previous federal estimates.

Monday’s incident follows the seizure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers last November at Washington (DC) Dulles International Airport of more than 678 pounds of khat shipped in air cargo from Nigeria destined for an Essex County address.

Khat, which is the green or greenish-brown leaf of a shrub called Catha edulis, is ordinarily grown in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and has been linked to social and cultural traditions thousands of years old.

With people migrating to North America and other parts of the world, an international khat trade has grown.

Classified by the World Health Organization as a narcotic of abuse, khat contains two drugs that are illegal in the United States and Canada -- cathinone and cathine.

It’s legal in many other parts of the world, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya, with an estimated 20 million users worldwide.

It’s used the same way as chewing tobacco, balled into the side of a cheek for three to four hours before the juice eventually is swallowed.

Users say it provides a combination of energy, calm and focus before mellowing into what feels like a mild mushroom trip. Some countries use it to treat fatigue, headaches, colds, and depression.

Side effects have included weight loss, constipation, impotence, blurred vision, dizziness, headaches and dental disease – some of which is believed to be caused by pesticides, experts say.

Effect with long-term use could include mouth and stomach disorders, they warn.

Honig credited special agents of Homeland Security Investigations in Newark and New York Field officers of CBP with the investigation and arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angelica M. Sinopole of her Organized Crime & Gangs Unit in Newark is handling the case.

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