D.C. man convicted of cannabis trafficking involved in failed DRC coup


Benjamin Zalman-Polun, a Maryland resident with a past cannabis conviction, was among three Americans caught in a failed coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Associated Press. The operation was led by Christian Malanga, a Congolese-American with whom Zalman-Polun appears to have connected through a gold mining company.

Zalman-Polun’s background reveals a complex past. Court records show a 2014 conviction for drug distribution of  at least 20 kilograms . He admitted to conspiring with another man to ship cannabis across the United States from Lake Tahoe, California. Prosecutors acknowledged his cooperation with the investigation and requested leniency during his sentencing.

Zalman-Polun was mentioned in a 2022 article related to Malanga’s gold business in Mozambique.

Details about Zalman-Polun’s role in the attempted coup and the nature of his connection to Malanga remain unclear. According to the AP article, he graduated from the University of Colorado and attended business administration classes at Georgetown University. Following his education, he ventured into various ventures including commodity trading, courier services, and Uber driving.

The poorly planned attack resulted in Malanga’s death. The fate of the detainees, including Zalman-Polun, is yet to be determined. The U.S. embassy has acknowledged the involvement of US citizens and pledged cooperation with Congolese authorities in their investigation.

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