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Friday, Oct. 31, 2008

ID-less arrest thought to be drug kingpin


Staff writer

An Iranian man under arrest since July is believed to be the ringleader of drug dealers who sold an estimated ¥200 million worth of narcotics to 20,000 customers on the streets of the ritzy Azabu, Shirokane and Takanawa neighborhoods in Minato Ward, Tokyo, since last November.

The Kanto-Shinetsu Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare said Thursday that the suspect, who has identified himself as Abolfazl Zarbali, 42, was arrested in July.

He has been indicted for allegedly managing four other Iranian men who possessed and tried to sell illegal drugs, including 20 grams of stimulants and 42 grams of cocaine, out of apartments in Minato Ward from May to July, said Katsuhiro Sakata of the bureau's Narcotics Control Department.

The department, which arrested Zarbali, has been unable to find his passport or any documents to confirm his identity, Sakata said.

The group sold drugs to an average of 70 people a day, making as much as ¥20 million a month, Sakata alleged.

The department, based in Tokyo, arrested Zarbali's four associates between May and July. Information they provided led to Zarbali and the department picked him up on a street in Minato Ward.

If he is the mastermind of a drug ring, it would be a major break for the department. Ringleaders are usually too cautious to get caught. Sakata said there are around 10 similar groups in Tokyo, and Zarbali is the first leader it has arrested.

Sakata quoted Zarbali as claiming he has been in and out of Japan on a fake passport since about 1996 and has sold narcotics in Tokyo and the Chubu region.

He started out as a street dealer in busy entertainment districts but later began selling in residential areas after police started cracking down on drugs and the number of surveillance cameras were increased, Sakata said.

Zarbali was allegedly in charge of contacting and negotiating with customers. After finalizing a deal by mobile phone, he would give the drugs to the four associates — one in charge of Azabu, another Takanawa and the other two Shirokane — and send them out to complete the deals on streets in quiet residential areas.

He recruited associates at bars in Roppongi in Minato Ward and elsewhere, Sakata said.

Zarbali has denied the allegations against him, but the other four told the Narcotics Control Department he was the one giving them the orders, according to Sakata.



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