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    29/10 - 18:00
    Sebastian Ajavon, a prominent businessman in Benin and who came in third in the last presidential elections was arrested on Friday on suspicion of dealing in drugs.

    Sources said Ajavon was arrested by coastguards at the port of Cotonou after a cocaine seizure in a container that was ferrying food products in the west African nation.

    His lawyers who visited him at a local police station where he was being detained said no charges had been formally brought against him.

    The drama began at dawn Friday at Cotonou port when the gendarmes of the Maritime Squadron intercepted a container from Brazil intended for COMON-CAJAF, a company which Sébastien Ajavon owns.

    Inside the shipment, police say they seized 18 kilos of pure cocaine with an estimated value of about 9 billion CFA francs (around EUR 14 million). In the process, three company employees were arrested and placed in custody.

    After he was alerted on the arrests, Ajavon called a press conference and denounced the incident as a set-up by rival businessmen.

    “It seems that when we go into politics, there are shots that we receive. We receive hundreds, thousands of containers. How do they know that in a single container there were drugs? It is the way thugs operate,” Ajavon said before he was arrested by police.

    With its porous borders and corruptible officials, West Africa has for more than a decade been a major transit point for cocaine grown in Latin America on its way to Europe.

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    Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested a Lagos-based pastor, Daniel Lanre Akintola, for being in possession heroin.

    Akintola, 43, was found with the 1.978kg of heroin concealed in a false bottom of his luggage, after he had disembarked from a flight, at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), Enugu.

    Akintola, who claimed ownership of the bag containing the HOIN, said that he was returning from a pastors' conference.

    “I am a pastor with Gospel Faith Mission International, Olayemi Assembly, Ipaja, Lagos. I am from Oyo State. I attended a ministers' conference in Uganda. This bag where heroin was found is my bag but I am a pastor and not a drug trafficker,” he told the NDLEA officials.

    He, however, could not produce any evidence that he actually attended a pastors' conference in Uganda. Besides, he also did not give any reason for leaving Entebbe, Uganda en-route Addis Ababa to Enugu.

    Another suspect, Onwuegbusi Tochukwu Victor, 48, was also arrested yesterday by NDLEA operatives at the airport, for alleged drug trafficking. He was found with 51.5kg of ephedrine inside his luggage.

    Victor, from Anambra State, told the operatives that he was asked to take the bag of ephedrine to Mozambique for a fee of 2,500 dollars.

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    Richard McDonald Tour Guide

    An anti-drug operation in Belize City on Monday night yielded 22.5 pounds of heroin in a taxi, while police in Seine Bight village earlier that same day resulted in the discovery of just over four pounds of marijuana.

    The seizure in Belize City occurred on the Bel-China Bridge in a taxi car driven at the time by Giovanni Requena, 25, a resident of Belize City.

    Police say the heroin was stashed in 12 parcrls in a black bag. They say that further investigations led to the detention of Richard McDonald, 39, a tour guide/operator of Hattieville Village.

    Requena and McDonald have been arrested and charged with two counts of ‘possession of controlled drugs with the intent to supply’.

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    An alleged drug trafficking gang operating between East and West Africa has been busted at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, local media reported Thursday.

    The suspects, Friday Ogbonna Icheogu, 43, Christian Chukwudi Icheogu, 36, both Nigerians; Mabada Zanaka Zamzam, alias Zam Nabadda, 36, and Charles Ejiku Gasper, 41, both Ugandans, were said to have been arrested in two separate operations, resulting in the seizure of 13 kilograms of heroin with a street value of over 1 million US dollars.

    Ten parcels of the drug were reportedly discovered in an enamel bowl, while seven were found under the cushion of a baby pram.

    Deputy Executive Secretary of Ghanas Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Nii Lantey Blankson, told the state-run Daily Graphic that on March 8, 2015, officials from his outfit, acting on intelligence, arrested the Ugandan woman, Mabada Zanaka Zamzam, at the KIA.
    He said Zamzam arrived at the KIA around 11 a.m. on that day onboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Uganda.

    But unknown to Zamzam, officials of NACOB had mounted surveillance on her.
    Blankson said after she had picked her two pieces of luggage and headed outside, she was met by the two Nigerians at the entrance of the arrival hall.

    The three persons exchanged pleasantries and thereafter Ogbonna introduced himself as the contact person Zamzam was supposed to meet. Thereafter, one of the Nigerians stopped a taxi and put the luggage in it but before they could enter the taxi, NACOB officials arrested them.

    Blankson said a thorough search conducted on the luggage carried by the woman revealed 10 parcels of a substance suspected to be heroin which had been concealed beneath 10 enamel bowls.
    He said the 10 parcels had a gross weight of three kilograms and upon interrogation Zamzam informed the officials that she had been sent by someone whose name she gave only as Joel, a Nigerian living in Uganda, to bring the travelling bag containing the bowls to a friend in Accra who would meet her at the airport.

    He said on March 16, 2015, Gasper was also picked up on arrival at the KIA on board an Ethiopian Airline flight from Entebbe through Addis Ababa to Accra.
    Blankson said while profiling Gasper, it was realized that he had two baggage tags with the numbers ET438241 and ET438242 stuck at the back of his passport.
    He said Gasper had earlier told NACOB officials who arrested him that he had only a hand luggage and denied any knowledge of the bag tags.
    Officials then escorted him to the luggage department where a black bag and a box containing a baby?s pram had been left on the carousel.

    When it was checked, it bore the name of the suspect and matched the tags behind his passport.
    A thorough search in the bag and the baby?s pram revealed seven large parcels of heroin, with an approximate weight of 10 kilograms, concealed beneath the bag and the baby?s pram.
    Upon interrogation, Gasper claimed the two items had been given to him in Uganda by a Nigerian whose name he gave only as Obi to be delivered to an unknown person in Accra.

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  • 11/04/16--17:08: Belize 5 $ million H Bust
  • Tonight, the Anti Drug Unit has charged four Belizeans after officers made a major heroin bust in Corozal town last night. How large? 7News has confirmed that they intercepted more than 40 pounds of the lethal drug - the largest such bust in Belize's history. That quantity of the drug has a street value in the vicinity of 5 million US dollars.

    The drugs were found in three bags on the back seat of a white Chevrolet Tahoe with Belize City plates. They added up to 15 parcels of Heroin along with one small piece. The total weight is 19.621 Kilograms or 43 pounds.

    Details of the actual circumstances of the bust are sketchy at this time, but 7News has confirmed that the ADU - acting on intelligence, intercepted four persons, who were believed to be northbound to Mexico. They were at a at the entrance to Corozal town.

    They are 32 year old Jose Antonio Lara a fisherman/Tour guide of Julio Street San Pedro, 30 year old Lenon Leonardo Tillett a BEL contractor of #20 Ebony street Belize City also of College Road Corozal Town 42 year old Gerardo Beraldo Allen, a tour guide of Back street Caye Caulker and 35 year old Heirder Martin Perez an administrative assistant for Hol Chan Marine Reserve of Escalante Subdivision San Pedro Town. Perez is the holder of a licensed 9 mm pistol which was in his possession loaded with 13 live rounds.

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    A crew from an Australian warship has seized more than 400kg of heroin from pirate smugglers off the Somalia coast during a daring raid.

    The drugs were found on a vessel when navy personnel from HMAS Darwin swooped.
    The boarding party discovered the contraband hidden in 20 bags on a motorised dhow, 44 nautical miles off Somalia.

    Tuesday's bust follows an even bigger haul where more than a tonne of heroin was found in a smuggling vessel off the coast of Kenya in April. This is the second find of its kind in a month. Last month, more than a tonne of heroin - worth $290 million - was also found by HMAS Darwin on a smuggling boat in Kenya. That 1032kg haul was a record find, according to the Department of Defence, and was found in a dhow in the Indian Ocean, about 27 nautical miles east of Mombasa, Kenya.

    According to protocol, the seized drugs are tossed overboard and smugglers are released.

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    Combined Maritime Forces Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Regina has seized over 130kg of high-grade heroin off the coast of Tanzania.

    The illicit narcotics were seized after HMCS Regina intercepted and boarded a suspect dhow approximately 100 nautical miles east of Zanzibar Island, while under the command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

    HMCS Regina’s embarked ‘Sea King’ helicopter initially observed a suspect dhow in the Indian Ocean.

    As the dhow continued her westerly passage, bound for east Africa, HMCS Regina closed and boarded the vessel.

    An extensive search by HMCS Regina’s boarding party revealed the carefully concealed narcotics, which later tested positive for heroin.

    The narcotics were catalogued before samples were taken for further analysis and the remainder destroyed. Commander of CTF 150, Commodore Daryl Bates, Royal Australian Navy, said:
    “The Royal Canadian Navy has again proven to be a highly motivated and effective power in the Combined Maritime Forces arsenal.

    “I congratulate the crew in HMCS Regina, who have certainly earned this success. They have worked tirelessly since taking over from their sister ship, HMCS Toronto, in February.

    “In conjunction with the recent efforts of warships from the French, United States and Australian Navies, the Canadian Navy continues to have a real impact on smuggling operations in this region.

    “Countering narcotics smuggling continues to be one of our highest priorities, and we are working closely with regional partners to disrupt the activities of those who wish to use the maritime environment to move illicit cargo.

    “Since January this year, over 1455kg of heroin bound for east Africa has been intercepted by CMF.”

    CTF 150 is one of three task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). Its mission is to promote maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related illegal activities, which terrorists use to fund or conceal their movements.

    CMF is a multi-national naval partnership, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

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    During a control operation, the customs services seized 62,660 psychotropic pills and 29 kg and 92 grams of cocaine hidden in the luggage of a Moroccan expatriate, it said, adding that the drug trafficker was boarding a Morocco-registered coach coming from Spain.

    The arrested was handed to the judiciary police, under the supervision of the public prosecutor’s office, to complete the investigation before bringing him to justice, it said.

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    French customs officers have seized more than two and a half tons of cocaine off the French Caribbean island of Martinique in two separate anti-drug operations last week.

    In the first operation, which was carried out Wednesday night, officials seized approximately 2.5 tons of drugs with an estimated street value of 318 million Euros from a sailboat off the island's coast. The effort brought a two-year-long international investigation to a close. If cut and sold in the UK the haul would have had a likely potential street value in excess of £300 million.

    The second, smaller-scale drug bust took place on Friday, when customs officers found a further 485 pounds of cocaine on board a Guyanese tugboat, in a joint operation carried out by France and the Joint Inter-agency Task Force South, a US agency specialising in multinational operations against drug trafficking.

    After Wednesday's operation, France's Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Budget Secretary Christian Eckert released a joint statement describing the drugs seizure as "historic."

    Speaking on France 2 Sunday, a spokesman for France's National Directorate of Intelligence and Customs Investigations  said the bust made on stormy seas was "the biggest cocaine seizure in the entire 200-year history of French customs" and "one of France's 10 largest cocaine seizures
    anywhere in the world."

    According to the DNRED, the yacht named the Silandra was allegedly headed to Europe when customs officers stopped the 20-meter vessel around 9pm Wednesday night.

    Officers allegedly found the cocaine packed in 80 packages that were littered on the cabin floor, according to French television France 2.

    The vessel — which was falsely sailing under a US flag — was purchased for 500,000 euros ($536,000) by a Spanish national who was a known member of Basque separatist group ETA in the '80s, French daily Le Parisien reported.

    On April 13, the Silandra reportedly stopped in Saint Lucia, an island south of Martinique, where traffickers on board loaded the drugs onto the vessel. Two days later, on Wednesday April 15, the sailboat set off on its transatlantic journey, only to be stopped that night, 125 miles off the coast of Martinique.

    Three people — including one Venezuelan and two Spanish nationals — were arrested in the operation. One of the Spaniards is an ex-member of ETA and the other is a known drug trafficker, according to French radio Europe 1. It is unclear in reports whether either of the Spanish traffickers arrested is the same Spanish national who purchased the boat. The identity of the Venezuelan is unknown.

    The drugs were reportedly destroyed Saturday, public prosecutor Eric Corbaux said.

    In the second operation Friday, the Guyanese tugboat was intercepted some 400 miles to the east of the Caribbean islands, according to local news channel France 1, and its four occupants were taken into police custody.

    France has already retrieved nearly 4 tons of illegal seaborne drugs since the beginning of 2015. Last year, the country's global anti-narcotics operations hauled in 7.2 tons of cocaine. In November 2014 a UK-bound yacht carrying an estimated 250 kilos of cocaine was seized off Martinique, in another joint operation. Two men from Jersey were later jailed for a total of 17 years.

    Other French agencies have also been involved in drug operations throughout the years, with some seizures larger than the recent "historic" bust carried out by Customs. In November 2006, the French Navy seized 4.7 tons of cocaine stashed aboard a Panamanian freighter off the coast of Martinique.

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    On 13 October 2016, the Cameroonian customs seized a cargo of 100 kg of methamphetamines at the Douala International Airport, we learned from official sources. The cargo packaged in 20 boxes belonging to two Cameroonian nationals, who were trying to send it to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

    This record seizure comes only a few days after the official installation of two anti-traffic units at the Yaoundé and Douala airports. The mission of these two structures co-financed by the European Union, as part of the “Airport Communication Project” (AIRCOP), and Japan; is to fight against drug trafficking and other illicit activities in the above-mentioned airports.

    On september the 2nd 2016 French customs seized a record haul of the drug methamphetamine disguised as cereals from Cameroon at Roissy airport in Paris with a street value of about 3.8 million euros ($4.26 million), they said on Friday.

    The drug weighed about 51 kg (112.44 lb), making it the biggest single seizure of the drug on French territory.

    In a statement, the customs department said customs officers checked two boxes that had been declared to contain food coming from the Cameroon capital of Yaounde en route to Malaysia.

    "In the boxes, they found sachets of cereals including several which were unusually heavy. Opening them, methamphetamine crystals were discovered wrapped in aluminium foil," it said. It did not say if any arrests had been made.

    Drug networks are increasingly using West and Central Africa as a transit point for drugs from Latin America to Europe, the United States and Asia. They also use the region as production zone for meth because of weak controls on imports of meth ingredients. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the highly addictive methamphetamine is increasingly popular in East and Southeast Asia. One kilo of it costs around $1,500 to make in West Africa but sells for around $150,000 in Japan.

    In 2015, French customs seized nearly 513 kg of amphetamines including 96.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. ($1 = 0.8924 euros)

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  • 11/06/16--10:06: Africa Rehab Project

  • West Africa is now the primary transit point for cocaine and other drugs trafficked from South America to Europe and North America. Recent developments show that West African criminal networks are taking control of an ever more sophisticated system to smuggle cocaine into the rich market of the North. Cocaine, synthetics, and increasing amounts of heroin are now transiting Africa where a percentage (tax,toll,) stays to satisfy the local market,while the remainder is moved to final destinations in Europe and North America. 

    Just a decade ago, the North American market for cocaine was four times larger than that of Europe, but now we are witnessing a complete rebalancing. Today the estimated value of the European cocaine market ($65-billion) is almost equivalent to that of the North American market ($70-billion), it has simply experienced a geographical shift in supply and demand. 

    Africa now occupies second position worldwide in the trafficking and consumption of illegal drugs.According to UN statistics 37,000 people in Africa die annually from diseases associated with the consumption of illegal drugs. The UN estimates there are 28 million drug users in Africa, the figure for the United States and Canada is 32 million.There are an estimated 1.5 million of coke users in West Africa alone.

    According to the United Nations, of the 35 tonnes of cocaine estimated to have reached West Africa in 2009, only 21 tonnes continued on to Europe, meaning the remainder was probably sold and consumed locally in Africa. The UN agency said as much as 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of heroin have been consumed in West Africa in 2011 so far.

    Now the epicentre of an expanding West African cocaine trade, Guinea-Bissau is confronting an entirely new problem that threatens disaster for its fragile health, law enforcement and justice systems - a burgeoning population of home-grown crack addicts.

    Europe is Providing the Demand for this Trade
    A recent article published by the London Sunday Telegraph calculated that so much cocaine is being used in London that traces of the white powder can be detected in the River Thames. Citing scientific research that it had commissioned, it said an estimated 2kg of cocaine, or 80 000 lines, spill into the river every day after passing through users’ bodies and sewage treatment plants. It extrapolated that 150 000 lines of the illegal drug are snorted in the London alone every single day, or 15 times higher than the official figure given by the Home Office. 

    Europeans belong to the largest consumers of illicit drugs, absorbing about one fifth of the global heroin, cocaine and cannabis supply, as well as one third of ecstasy production (UNODC World Drug report, 2008). In the last ten years trafficking in the area has boomed. The United Nations estimates that 60 -250 tons of cocaine transits West Africa each year. That's a street value of between $120 - $500 billion. 13% of the world’s cocaine. 

    This European appetite for drugs has a direct impact on people in places like Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the smallest, with a population of just 1.6 million, the drug now permeates the entire nation, from the military and political elites, who facilitate its passage, to the poorest and most vulnerable, who are developing a rising addiction. Nowadays crack cocaine can be found almost anywhere in the country, even in remote villages.  

    Large cocaine shipments arrive in West Africa to be broken down into smaller quantities before being smuggled onwards. But some of the drug remains in the country, where it is refined into cheap crack cocaine that feeds a growing number of addictions. According to UN statistics 37,000 people in Africa die annually from diseases associated with the consumption of illegal drugs. There are an estimated 1.5 million of coke users in West Africa. The UN estimates there are 28 million drug users in Africa, the figure for the United States and Canada is 32 million.

    As smuggling activity has increased, there's been a spillover effect. According to the United Nations' 2012 World Drug Report, 

    "increasing trafficking of cocaine through the coastal countries of West Africa is leading to an increase in cocaine use… with cocaine use possibly emerging alongside heroin use as a major problem".

    African Crack Epidemic
    Political risk assessment experts are predicting that West Africa could soon face a crack epidemic similar to those that have ravaged US cities between 1984-1990 and the current crack epidemic in Brazil.[According to the United Nations], of the 35 tonnes of cocaine 
    estimated to have reached West Africa in 2009, only 21 tonnes continued on to Europe, meaning the remainder was probably sold and consumed locally in Africa.West Africa, one of the world’s most deprived areas, is being plunged further into violence crime and addiction.

    In Sierra Leone, the only certified psychiatrist in the country, Dr Nahim estimated that 80 percent of the patients he sees are suffering from "drug-induced psychotic disorders".

    The African Networks that previously earned cuts by providing mules for Latin American cartels are also cooking up their own slice of the global drug pie. Their narcotic of choice is methamphetamine, a highly profitable powder concocted using readily available and legal 

    Four large-scale crystal meth labs have been discovered in Nigeria. Shipments of precursor chemicals have been seized in neighbouring Benin and Togo and in Guinea officials discovered huge vats used to cook MDMA, a similar synthetic drug.

    The situation in West Africa is particularly alarming. There is no prevention, no rehabilitation. The issue is so new that there is no data available. It’s impossible to say how many people are lost in crack and methamphetamine addiction. And mostly, there is no consciousness among the people about the long-term effects of this plague. 

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    A coordinated network assault by state security forces on Sunday led to the seizure of one ton of cocaine at Nouadhibou  sea port, reports say.

    Army coast guards, military police and police forces launched the coordinated operation at and around the port located in the city of Nouadhibou, more than 400 km north of capital Nouakchott, on Saturday night after authorities were tipped off that a vessel was carrying the drug.

    The port of origin of the vessel is not known yet but authorities have launched investigations to identify accomplices.

    Mauritania has become a main transit point for drug trafficking in West Africa and in the Sahel. Late April, the Mauritanian army seized 475 kilograms of drugs from a group of traffickers after a chase and gun battle. According to army sources, the incident took place in the area of “Al Hank”, more than 250 km, north-east of the town of Zouerate.

    The traffickers were tracked by an army unit and a military aircraft and were later arrested and their shipment seized, but the army did not disclose the type of drugs they seized nor did they reveal the nationalities of arrestees.

    They had also seized light and heavy weaponry as well as a GPS device and a satellite phone.UN’s Regional officer for the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism in Central and West Africa, Pierre Lapack, had sounded the alarm the same month that drug trafficking and terrorism constitute real threats to peace and security in the Sahel region including Mauritania.

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    The son of a Scottish aristocrat has been charged in Kenya with trafficking nearly 100kg of cocaine in one of the country’s biggest drugs seizures in recent years.

    Jack Marrian, 30, who attended a prestigious Kenyan school with the British cyclist Chris Froome and whose mother is Emma Clare Campbell of Cawdor, denied the charge during a court appearance in Nairobi on Thursday.

    The haul was found by Kenyan police and US Drug Enforcement Agency officials in containers that had arrived from Brazil at the main Kenyan seaport last week. The class A drugs were allegedly shipped around the world in containers labelled as carrying sugar destined for Uganda.

    Marrian was born into the famous line of Scottish nobility known as the Clan Campbell of Cawdor.
    It is understood a Kenyan national, Roy Francis Mwanthi, has also been charged with trafficking cocaine. A third suspect, also Kenyan, had been questioned earlier by police but it was not clear on Thursday evening whether he had been charged with a crime.

    The prosecution says documents found on the ship that was used to transport the cargo detailed Marrian as a director of Mshale Uganda Limited, the firm which was to receive the containers.

    Police had released Marrian and his co-accused on Monday due to a requirement in Kenyan law that suspects to be charged within 24 hours of their arrest. The prosecution was initially not ready to press charges but the suspects were re-arrested on Wednesday and charged on Thursday.
    Police say both Marrian and Mwanthi, a director of Inland Africa Logistics Limited, had placed calls to the people processing the cargo at the port before it was impounded. Marrian and Mwanthi deny the charges.

    On his LinkedIn profile, Marrian describes himself as the head of sugar trading in south-east Africa at ED&F Sugar, a merchant that ships sugar, molasses and coffee around the world. His profile also says he is the managing director of Mshale Commodities, the Kenyan importer which the prosecution alleges was due to receive the shipment containing the cocaine.

    A spokeswoman for Mshale Commodities said: “Mshale is aware of speculation regarding an allegedly compromised shipment consigned to Mshale Commodities. We can confirm that Mshale’s managing director, Jack Marrian, is assisting the Kenyan authorities to provide them with whatever information they require.

    Mshale operates stringent procedures to protect the integrity of its supply chain. Until these investigations are concluded, we are unable to comment further.”

    Growing up in an affluent part of Nairobi, Marrian went to the one of Kenya’s foremost international schools at the same time as three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome. Crista Cullen, the English hockey player, was also at the Banda school at this time.

    It is understood that Marrian then studied at the elite Marlborough college, where the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Eugenie were students, before going on to the University of Bristol.

    In a one-word Facebook status posted on Monday, sent from the Spring Valley area of Nairobi, Marrian wrote “released”. The status has been responded to more than 30 times by friends on the social networking site but he has not updated his account since.

    Marrian’s aunt, Elizabeth Campbell, told the Guardian “he’s innocent, that’s all I can say”. She declined to comment further.

    A National Crime Agency spokesman said: “We are aware of the seizure and the subsequent arrest of a UK national, and have

    assisted our Kenyan and US law enforcement partners. However, this is now a matter for the Kenyan authorities so it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

    The maximum penalty for drug trafficking in Kenya is a life sentence and a fine of more than $10,000 (£7,600).

    The seizure was a rare one in Kenya, which has become a cocaine distribution hub in recent years, according to the UN and the US. Traffickers from South America are said to take advantage of Nairobi’s extensive air links to Europe and Asia.

    They also exploit Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline and lack of adequate security controls at the port of Mombasa, the US

    Department of State’s 2016 narcotics control strategy report said.

    Stemming the flow of drugs is a challenge for Kenyan authorities, the report said, citing “corruption within the Kenyan government and business community ... High-level prosecutions or large seizures remain infrequent”.

    For more than a decade, police in Kenya have been named as the most corrupt institution in the country by the local body of global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

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    According to an article by the US publication Business Insider a senior  Mexican diplomat says America pretty much invited the Sinaloa Drug Cartel across the border.

    Leaked emails from the private U.S. security firm Stratfor cite a Mexican diplomat who says the U.S. government works with Mexican cartels to traffic drugs into the United States and has sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.

    Many people have doubted the quality of Stratfor's intelligence, but the information from MX1—a Mexican foreign service officer who doubled as a confidential source for Stratfor—seems to corroborate recent claims about U.S. involvement in the drug war in MexicoMost notably, the reports from MX1 line up with assertions by a Sinaloa cartel insider that cartel boss Joaquin Guzman is a U.S. informant, the Sinaloa cartel was "given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago," and Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information used to take down rival cartels.

    An email with the subject "Re: From MX1 -- 2" sent Monday, April 19, 2010, to Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton says: I think the US sent a signal that could be construed as follows:

    "To the[Juárez]and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than [the Juárez cartel]. Also note that [Ciudad Juárez] is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either [the Juárez cartel] gets in line or we will mess you up." In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner, and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis.

    Bill Conroy of Narco News reports that MX1's description matches the publicly available information on Fernando de la Mora Salcedo — a Mexican foreign service officer who studied law at the University of New Mexico and served at the Mexican Consulates in El Paso, Texas, and Phoenix. In a June 13, 2010, email with the subject "Re: Get follow up from mx1? Thx," MX1 states that U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sent their "signal" by discretely brokering a deal with cartels in Tijuana, just south of San Diego, Calif., which reduced the violence in the area considerably. 

     Mexican Diplomat Fernando de la Mora

    It is not so much a message for the Mexican government as it is for the Sinaloa cartel and [the Juárez cartel] themselves. Basically, the message they want to send out is that Sinaloa is winning and that the violence is unacceptable. They want the CARTELS to negotiate with EACH OTHER. The idea is that if they can do this, violence will drop and the governments will allow controlled drug trades.

    The email went on to say that "the major routes and methods for bulk shipping into the US" from Ciudad Juárez, right across the border from El Paso, Texas, "have already been negotiated with US authorities" and that large shipments of drugs from the Sinaloa cartel "are OK with the Americans."

    In July a Mexican state government spokesman told Al Jazeera that the CIA and other international security forces "don't fight drug traffickers" as much as "try to manage the drug trade." A mid-level Mexican official told Al Jazeera that based on discussions he's had with U.S. officials working in Ciudad Juárez, the allegations were true.

    Fred Burton 

    WikiLeaks has published 2,878 out of what it says is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.  The accused LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond, a 27-year-old Chicago man was told by the court that he could be sentenced to life in prison for compromising the computers of Stratfor. Judge Loretta Preska told Hammond in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday that he could be sentenced to serve anywhere from 360 months-to-life if convicted on all charges relating to last year’s hack of Strategic Forecasting. Hammond is not likely to take the stand until next year, but so far has been imprisoned for eight months without trial. Legal proceedings in the case might soon be called into question, however, after it’s been revealed that Judge Preska’s husband was a victim of the Stratfor hack.

    Jeremy Hammond

    There are usually just three ways for a trafficker to leave a Mexican drug cartel: go to prison, get killed, or become a government informant. Most criminals who become informants do so because they've been arrested and squeezed, encouraged to betray their criminal employers in exchange for leniency. But this Sinaloa insider had an unusual story to tell about his first encounter with U.S. federal agents. It was his boss, a top manager at the Sinaloa cartel, who encouraged him to help the Americans. 

    Meet with the U.S. investigators, he was told. See how 
    we can help them with information.The Sinaloa insider,  acting with the full approval of his cartel, strolled into the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office for an appointment with federal investigators. He walked through a metal detector and past the portrait of the American president on the wall, then into a room with a one-way mirror. The agents he met were very polite. He was surprised by what they had to say. “One of the ICE agents said they were here to help [the Sinaloa cartel]. And to fuck the Vicente Carrillocartel. Sorry for the language. That’s exactly what they said.”

    So began another small chapter in one of the most secretive aspects of the drug war: an extensive operation by Chapo Guzmán’s forces to manipulate American law enforcement to their own benefit. Guzmán’s broad strategy has been to knock off rivals and build his own cartel into the dominant criminal force south of the border. One of his tactics for achieving that has been to place his drug-dealing lieutenants as informants for the DEA and ICE. According to sources and court records, he has been carefully feeding intelligence to the Americans. Now, Newsweek has learned, there is a federal investigation into how ICE agents handled some Sinaloa informants near the border.

    The implications are sobering: the Sinoloa cartel “is duping U.S. agencies into fighting its enemies,” says Prof. Tony Payan of the University of Texas at El Paso, who studies the cartel wars in Juárez. “Typical counter intelligence stuff. It’s smart. It’s so smart.” Humberto Loya- Castro, a charming and erudite Mexican lawyer who served as Guzmán’s adviser, may have been his most intriguing agent. He became a key informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration during the last decade. A former DEA official describes Loya-Castro as “astute, witty. He was extremely charismatic.” His tips led to arrests, seizures, and headlines. Many of those law-enforcement victories, though, were also triumphs for the Sinaloa cartel.

    Humberto Loya- Castro

    Loya-Castro was indicted by the United States in 1995, along with Guzmán. Back then, the lawyer was known by the alias “Licenciado Perez”—Lawyer Perez. The charges say he “protected the drugs and money of the Guzmán organization in Mexico by paying money to Mexican authorities” and “ensured that if key members of the Guzmán organization were arrested they did not remain in custody.”

    Five years after the indictment, while Guzmán was still locked up, Loya-Castro first approached American officials, offering to feed them information. To appreciate his potential value, imagine if the leader of North Korea or Iran had a lawyer who offered to become an undercover U.S. operative. As a compadre of the Sinaloa boss, Loya-Castro had information that most investigators could only fantasize about. In 2005 he made it formal, signing paperwork that made him an official confidential informant for the DEA. Because he was a fugitive from justice, facing an outstanding warrant, a special DEA committee had to sign off on the whole operation.

    He was a productive spy, handing over what seemed like ever more vital information, mostly about the Sinaloa cartel’s enemies. The DEA agent assigned to handle him was a relatively new investigator named Manuel Castanon. He had spent five years working for the Border Patrol, then joined the DEA in 1999. He was assigned to a special task force based out of San Diego—a unit that wasn't focused on the Sinaloa cartel. Rather, Castanon and his group were tasked with fighting one of Guzmán’s closest rivals, the Tijuana cartel, headed by the notoriously brutal Arellano Félix brothers.

    The Tijuana cartel was small, but it was important because it controlled the vital smuggling routes through Baja California and San Diego. Both the DEA and Chapo Guzmán had an interest in its demise. One day Loya-Castro called Castanon to set up an urgent meeting. At a briefing with DEA officials, Loya-Castro warned them of a grave threat to their agents coming from one of Chapo’s enemies. He explained he had been dining with a former Mexican official when the official’s Nextel radio beeped. The caller was a member of the embattled Tijuana cartel who proceeded to outline a series of illegal plans. Loya-Castro could hear the whole conversation as if it were on a speaker phone  The Tijuana cartel was hiring a trained sniper nicknamed “the Monster,” Loya-Castro said, to shoot DEA agents and frighten them into leaving Tijuana. (A WikiLeaks cable describes the incident, and while Loya-Castro is not named in it, Newsweek has learned that he was the confidential source called “CS-01-013562.”)

    The intended effect of such a tip was almost surely to focus the DEA on Guzmán’s rivals. It apparently worked: the Tijuana cartel has been mostly dismantled, and Chapo Guzmán has taken over lucrative territory. All along, Loya-Castro apparently insisted to his handlers that he had Guzmán wrapped around his finger. Guzmán, he said, was gulled into thinking that Loya-Castro was loyal to him. “His point to us,” says David Gaddis, a former top DEA official who oversaw operations in Mexico, Central America, and Canada, “was that ‘because of my position, Chapo has absolute, unfettered confidence in who I am and what I'm doing.’”

    “I do think he was telling Chapo, ‘Hey, I'm meeting these guys,’” Gaddis tells Newsweek, “and Chapo allowed him to do it.”

    Loya-Castro’s material was so rich—so helpful in various cases—that in 2008 the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego had the indictment against him thrown out. And the intelligence kept coming. In December 2009, in an operation trumpeted around the world, Mexican Marines encircled and killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva, a leading drug lord who had splintered away from the Sinaloa group. In Chapo territory in Nogales, Sonora, residents fired pistols in the air to celebrate, according to Malcolm Beith’s book on Guzmán, The Last Narco.

    It’s been reported that the Americans provided intelligence that led to Beltrán’s death. They even coordinated the signal intercepts that allowed the Mexican Marines to move in, according to a source who was involved. A source close to the cartel leadership says intelligence for the operation also came from Loya-Castro. In essence, it seems he had helped the Americans put a feather in their cap, while killing off one of his master’s worst enemies.

    By this time, some people in DEA management were beginning to ask questions. The top target for the DEA was supposed to be Chapo Guzmán, and Loya-Castro wasn't doing anything at all on that front. Gaddis, who left the agency in 2011, says he spoke to the agents who handled Loya-Castro and pushed them to get information that would lead to Guzmán. The conversations went like this, Gaddis recalls: “I want you guys to turn up the heat and start having him work more effectively against the No. 1 guy.” But according to Gaddis, “that never came to fruition.”

    Double- and triple-dealing is a danger in any spy operation, something to be guarded against. “You should not allow the informant to control you,” says John Fernandes, a 27-year veteran of the DEA whose last job was running the San Diego division. “That doesn't mean they won’t try. Manipulation is part of life.” Still, Fernandes maintains, in general “the DEA does an outstanding job of applying stringent standards.”

    Gaddis says Loya-Castro did occasionally provide intelligence about the Sinaloa cartel, but not about its top rungs. And at least one internal DEA exchange cited in court documents indicates he was chiefly providing intelligence about the Sinaloa’s opposition. Gaddis, who now runs a security company called G-Global Protection Solutions, says he had believed Loya-Castro was a “double agent” the DEA used against Guzmán, but he’s now convinced he was more like a “triple agent.”

    Jesus Manuel Fierro-Mendez 

    Like most cops in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Jesus Manuel Fierro-Mendez was dirty. In fact, soon after being promoted to the position of captain, he was smuggling enormous quantities of cocaine into the United States. And when Fierro-Mendez quit his job in the spring of 2007, after someone tried to kill him, he went to work for the Sinaloa drug cartel, the 47-year-old Fierro-Mendez testified in an El Paso court against Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula, his former boss in the Sinaloa cartel in Juarez – and one of Chapo Guzman’s top lieutenants. And Fierro-Mendez’s testimony contained some unexpected bombshells.

    Nevertheless, when drug dealer and former police captain Fierro-Mendez testified in an El Paso court this winter, he explained that when he was smuggling kilos of cocaine into the U.S., he was also working as an informant for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service – which investigates drug smuggling.

    “And was Chapo Guzman aware that you and others were giving information to ICE?” he was asked by the prosecutor. “Yes.”

    Chapo Guzmán made his move to wrest control of Ciudad Juárez from the local cartel roughly six years ago, and he did so with help. He eventually hired local police captain Manuel Fierro Méndez, who has since been sentenced to 27 years in a U.S. prison. Fierro Méndez was also one of the informants Guzmán planted in U.S. law enforcement. We know this because Fierro Méndez would later testify in U.S. federal court, as a prosecution witness, that he was sent by the cartel to the ICE office in El Paso to give up specific intelligence about the men Guzmán was trying to eliminate.

    “You were on a mission from Chapo to come provide information, correct?” he was asked in court in 2010. “Yes,” he replied. Fierro Méndez said he was like a “spokesperson,” passing information to ICE from Chapo, “information we would, obviously, get from the levels high up.”

    “Was the Sinaloa cartel trying to use ICE to eliminate its rivals in La Linea?” a prosecutor asked. “That’s right,” Fierro Méndez replied. “And was Chapo Guzmán aware?” came the question. “That’s right,” said the former police officer.

    He made it plain that that the cartel strictly forbade him to give up anything about the Sinaloa cartel, however. “Were you allowed to give information about Chapo?” “It wasn't allowed,” the dirty cop said, “and it wasn't asked of me.” In other words, he testified, the ICE agents he spoke to never required him to provide intelligence about the boss of his own criminal organization.

    Such information did lead to significant drug busts, which helps explain why American agents were so eager to play along. The costs, however, are clear. “Now the Sinaloa cartel understands how you work, who your agents are, and what you want,” says the University of Texas’s Payan. “They are using you, and in the end that particular cartel is going to come out of it strong. The Sinaloa cartel is not only virtually untouched but it is magnified ... They don’t have any Mexican competition. At home, they are king.”

    In all, at least five important figures in the Sinaloa cartel traipsed into the ICE offices in El Paso to relay information about the Juárez cartel. They provided tips about warehouses, drug routes, murders. They gave up information on who their enemies bribed and what their organizational charts were. And now, as Payan says, “the Juárez cartel is practically down to ashes, and to a large extent it was done with intelligence passed on by the Sinaloa cartel.”

    A federal prosecutor based in San Antonio who has tried cases against some Sinaloa-cartel members, including those who helped ICE, concurs on that point. I asked him if the information campaign by Chapo Guzmán helped the Sinaloa cartel take over Juárez. “It did,” he said. “That’s what this was all about: because of the intensity of the struggle, they were trying to exploit every possible thing they could to get the upper hand.”

    In a case ongoing in federal court in Chicago, lawyers for a top Sinaloa-cartel figure maintain that the DEA’s relationship with Guzmán’s lawyer was a virtual conspiracy to allow the Sinaloa cartel free rein. Arguing in front of the judge, one lawyer insisted that “this fellow Loya is not a normal informant. He’s an agent. He’s an agent for the Sinaloa cartel.”

    Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla 

    A high-ranking member of the Sinaloa drug cartel operative currently in U.S. custody alleges that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for information used to take down rival cartels, according to court documents. The statement was made by Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, the Sinaloa cartel’s “logistics coordinator” in charge of arranging massive drug shipments from Latin America to the United States as well as the son of cartel leader Ismael “Mayo” Zambada-Garcia and a close associate to kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican authorities in March 2009 and extradited to Chicago to face drug trafficking charges.

    From the court document:

    [T]he United States government at its highest levels entered into agreements with cartel leaders to act as informants against rival cartels and received benefits in return, including, but not limited to, access to thousands of weapons which helped them continue their business of smuggling drugs into Chicago and throughout the United States, and to continue wreaking havoc on the citizens and law enforcement in Mexico.  

    Zambada-Niebla believes that he, like the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, was "immune from arrest or prosecution" because he also actively provided information to U.S. federal agents.

    In its official response to the discovery motion, the government stated that there are “classified materials” regarding the case but argued they “do not support the defendant’s claim that he was promised immunity or public authority for his actions.” 

    Zambada-Niebla's lawyer is seeking government "documents, files, recordings, notes, and additional forms of evidence" that would support claims that federal agents personally assured Zambada-Niebla that "he would not be arrested, that the agents knew of his prior cooperation... that they just wanted to continue receiving information... [and] that the arrangements with him had been approved at the highest levels of the United States government."

    Zambada-Niebla was allegedly arrested five hours after he met with the federal agents.

    Jason Howerton of the Blaze reports that the documents detailing the relationship between the federal government and the Sinaloa Cartel "have still not been released or subjected to review — citing matters of national security."
    The motion for discovery claims the agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa cartel began sometime before 2004 and lasted at least until March 2009 as part of America's "Divide and Conquer" strategy against other cartels, in which the U.S. would use "one drug organization to help against others."
    Ismael Zambada Garcia. El Mayo

    From the court document:

    Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel under the leadership of defendant’s father, Ismael Zambada-Niebla and “Chapo” Guzman, were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States and were also protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution in return for providing information against rival cartels which helped Mexican and United States authorities capture or kill thousands of rival cartel members.

    The Flores twins, 31-year-old Chicago drug traffickers, now in U.S. custody and acting as informants in a plea deal whose details remain secret, will be the star witnesses in the Chicago trial of Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a head of the Sinaloa cartel and the biggest Mexican drug kingpin ever to be prosecuted in a U.S. courtroom.

    In court filings, Zambada-Niebla's lawyers claim he, like the Flores brothers, was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and that in exchange for intel on rival cartels, the U.S. government turned a blind eye as "tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States." In the months building up to the trial, a litany of court documents has been released that describe Chicago as a major distribution hub. The filings also suggest that damning details will be revealed about U.S. cooperation with some of the world's most powerful narcos.

    Vicente Zambada-Niebla caught the attention of the Latin American press corps last March when he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of a pre-existing immunity agreement with the DEA. The two-pronged defense argued immunity and "public authority," a specific kind of immunity that claims he acted under the auspices of the U.S. government. Zambada-Niebla asserts that U.S. law enforcement gave him carte blanche to coordinate the cartel's smuggling operations into Chicago and throughout the U.S. and permitted the remittance of billions of dollars in cash back to Mexico. He further alleges that the U.S. was complicit in arming the Sinaloa cartel with semiautomatic weapons, which it used to wage war on its foes.

    On September 9, federal prosecutors filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Chicago seeking to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), in the trial of Sinaloa cartel operative, Vicente Zambada-Niebla who alleges an agreement exists between the U.S. government and his bosses. The CIPA was enacted over 30 years ago to prevent public disclosure in criminal cases of classified information.

    Vicente Zambada-Niebla Now

    Zambada-Niebla, his head now shaved and skin tightly drawn against his cheekbones, was transferred in October to a federal prison in Milan, Michigan. But his lawyers claim the conditions in prison have actually worsened, with new restrictions placed on his ability to see visitors and to receive his mail on time. The location of the prison, nearly five hours from Chicago, has brought accusations from the defence that the government is hampering his lawyers' ability to communicate with their client.

    The breaks the Flores twins have received for cooperating with the government have made for contentious courtroom exchanges between the government prosecutors and the defense team, who have been filing competing motions dating back to July 2011. At the heart of the issue is the fight for government documents revealing communication between federal agents and cartel members, and the 32-year-old Classified Information Procedures Act the prosecution has cited in denying the release of the overwhelming bulk of these documents.

    Alvin Michaelson, a lawyer for the defence  complained at a pretrial hearing last December that the government was withholding information that impugned the credibility of the Flores twins as witnesses. "We know that there are witnesses that have been interviewed here in the Chicago area about the reputation of the Flores brothers as murderers, as thieves, liars," Michaelson said before Judge Castillo. "No one trusts the Flores brothers, no one, and...those are the two key witnesses in this case. We believe, we know, we've heard that the government gave enormous benefits to the Flores brothers' families, friends, including the ability to keep their ill-gotten gains while they were working with the government; that agents here in Chicago perhaps...knew about the situation.

    By 2001, the Flores brothers had become the main connection to Chicago for several of the leading Mexican drug cartels. They were the principal link in a drug-supply chain that connected Colombian producers with Mexican smugglers and on to North American consumers. According to court documents, the drugs were delivered to the U.S. by a variety of means—on speedboats, fishing vessels, Boeing 747 cargo planes, container ships and tractor trailers, and even by submarine.

    Court filings estimate their annual income at $700 million, according to a 2009 Washington Post article; the Flores crew reportedly shrink-wrapped the cash proceeds and hid them inside condominiums and brick split-levels in Chicago, Hinsdale, Palos Hills and Plainfield registered to relatives and girlfriends with no criminal records. 

    Flores twins 

    To get an idea of just how large the Flores operation was, one only needs to compare their $700 million estimated annual income to the total street value of all drugs seized in Chicago: $208 million worth in 2009, $139 million in 2008, $118 million in 2007, $143 million in 2006 and $235 million in 2005, according to the Chicago Police Department. In any given year, drug seizures never reached a third of the value of what the Flores crew dealt annually. After the Flores empire was dismantled, cocaine prices surged on the streets of Chicago, from $18,000 per kilo to $29,000 in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The Flores twins may be important enough to the government's case against Zambada-Niebla for the record of their once-vast criminal empire to be expunged, maybe they will be ghosted off to some tropical paradise under the witness protection programme. But by the end of what stands to be a long and drawn-out trial, what will likely prove most important is what sensitive details are revealed about the true nature of the relationship that federal agencies had with Zambada-Niebla and the Sinaloa cartel. Did the U.S. allow tons of illegal narcotics into its borders, as Zambada-Niebla asserts? His testimony versus the Flores twins will ultimately decide the outcome of the most important narco case to grace a Chicago federal courthouse. BullionVault

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  • 11/11/16--11:01: Narco Corruption in Africa
  • Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean
    • The dollar value of cocaine trafficked through West Africa has risen rapidly and surpassed all other illicit commodities smuggled in the subregion.
    • Experience from Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrates that cocaine traffic contributes to dramatically higher levels of violence and instability.
    • Co-opting key government officials is the preferred modus operandi of Latin American cocaine traffickers. African governments need to act urgently to protect the integrity of their counter narcotics institutions to prevent this threat from developing deeper roots on the continent.
    In November 2009, on a dry lake bed in the desert of northern Mali, United Nations (UN) investigators found traces of cocaine amid a Boeing 727's charred and stripped fuselage. Its owners had apparently torched the plane after it had been damaged, probably to destroy evidence of their identity and cargo. With a payload capacity of 10 tons of cocaine fetching a wholesale value of $580 million, West Africa's emerging cocaine traffickers could afford the loss.

    The flight path of this 727 may have included layovers in Gambia, Senegal,Guinea, and Guinea Bissau, but it assuredly originated from South America. Its cargo added to the mounting cocaine traffic from Latin America that transships West Africa on its way to European consumers. Estimates of annual cocaine transshipments through West Africa range between 60 and 250 tons, yielding wholesale revenues of $3 billion to $14 billion.

    Beginning in 2006, several West African countries seized extremely large volumes of cocaine—measured in the hundreds and thousands of kilograms—in single hauls. These seizures were often accidental, indicating that actual traffic was likely much higher. Cocaine departs Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere in South America in shipping containers, on yachts, and by small planes and jets. South American organized criminal and militant groups commonly deliver bulk shipments to West African traffickers in Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau, countries that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) frequently characterizes as the subregion's cocaine "hubs." The cocaine is then repackaged and moved to neighbouring countries before being transferred to syndicates in Europe, often composed of African expatriates, who handle wholesale and retail sales. Seizures in West Africa have resulted in the arrests of African, South American, European, and other nationals.

    While West Africa is the current locus of this activity, the continent as a whole is an idea transshipment  centre poor, with limited oversight and weak policing—making for a low-cost and low-risk environment. Since Africa is not a producer or major consumer of cocaine, some assume that its domestic effects will be minor. Yet evidence of cocaine's destabilizing impact is already emerging. The assassinations of Guinea Bissau's president and the head of the army in early 2009 were likely linked to cocaine transshipment. In January 2010, a senior officer of Guinea Bissau's Presidential Security Service was arrested in a narcotics sting, prompting senior military officials to publicly lament the regular involvement of security personnel in cocaine transshipment. In late 2009, Ghana extradited three Malians who claimed links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the United States on cocaine trafficking charges. The sheer value of the trade poses not only a threat to security but also real risks of distorting the region's economy, investment flows, development, and steps toward democracy.

    Cocaine transshipment in Africa is new, but Latin American and Caribbean countries have over 30 years of experience dealing with narcotics trafficking and its destabilizing effects. Hard-earned lessons from Latin America's experience, then, hold potentially invaluable insights for Africa as it engages this new, pernicious enemy.

    Trafficking in illicit goods is common in West Africa. Arms, counterfeit medicine, cigarettes, and crude oil all move illegally to and through West Africa. Traffickers in the subregion also have a history of smuggling heroin around the world. The "mule" method of hiring travellers to swallow narcotics in small parcels and travel by air is probably a Nigerian innovation.

    But cocaine is an order of magnitude more seductive than other goods already smuggled across the subregion. Kilogram for kilogram, it is immensely more valuable. According to a UNODC assessment of trafficking in West Africa, the estimated value of cocaine transshipments in 2008 rivalled crude oil for the most valuable smuggled commodity. Yet the volume of cocaine traffic was comparatively minuscule compared to the 55 million barrels of oil that were stolen and transported for the same return.

    The yields from cocaine transshipment also dwarf the subregion's official resources. During one incident in January 2008, Malian security officials seized 750 kilograms of cocaine following a shoot-out  This one haul represented 36 percent of Mali's entire 2007 military expenditures. Similarly, the 350 kilograms of cocaine seized on one occasion in August 2007 in Benin represented the annual per capita income of 31,000 Beninois.

    Cocaine traffic may prove to be a fixture in West Africa. Transshipment has emerged in part because demand is growing in Europe. According to the UN International Narcotics Control Bureau, cocaine use has doubled and tripled in some parts of Western Europe since 2000. Traffickers, it would seem, are not shifting traffic to service pre existing demand but establishing a new route for a growing market.

    Market dynamics also explain why heroin traffic through West Africa has not been nearly as destabilizing. West Africa plays a small role in global heroin traffic because consumer markets in North America and Europe are supplied through the Balkans, Middle East, and South Asia. Only 167 kilograms of heroin was recovered in West and Central Africa in 2007, or less than one-thirtieth the amount of cocaine seized in just West Africa for the same year. There are growing concerns, however, that instability in East Africa is attracting heroin traffic (contributing to an estimated 200,000 heroin addicts in Kenya), which may merge with West African cocaine routes.
    Over the last decade West Africa has emerged from widespread instability and benefited from a period of declining violence and growing democracy. Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire are emerging from civil wars. Mali, Ghana, and Benin continue to consolidate democratic gains. Cocaine traffic poses a direct threat to these advances. Traffickers abhor attention. Any state response—whether parliamentarians passing laws to enhance border security or investigators prosecuting smugglers—raises transaction costs and lowers profits. Consequently, traffickers will attempt through co-optation, bribery, and corruption to prevent and deter a state's response in order to protect their profits. Rather than guard cocaine cargoes with heavily armed security and gunfights, traffickers would rather pay politicians, judges, and police officers to ignore their trade altogether. The strategy is to make these officials beneficiaries early to ensure low costs over the long term.

    In the Caribbean, narcotics traffic has been a major factor in expanding and deepening corruption. Jamaica has struggled for years against endemic corruption, clientèle list politics, and a lack of checks and balances within government—a familiar combination in West Africa. Beginning in the late 1990s, however, its strategic location between the United States and drug-producing countries in Latin America attracted rising cocaine transshipment. By 2003, Jamaica had become a leading transit country for cocaine destined for the United States. The quality of governance on the island soon worsened. Jamaica's ranking on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index fell from 45th in 2002 to 99th in 2009. The sharp drop in public integrity coincides with regular efforts by transnational and Jamaican criminal groups "to corrupt functionaries in critical state agencies—particularly the police and customs—political party functionaries and grass roots, community organizations."

    Narcotics trafficking has penetrated government and undermined governance elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2009, Leonel Fernández, president of the Dominican Republic, dismissed 700 police and 535 military officers, including 31 senior leaders, citing links to cocaine traffic. In Mexico, the Zetas, a criminal group renowned for assassinations on behalf of drug traffickers, was formed by officers who deserted the military. In Brazil, São Paulo's narcotics traffickers train their members to pass Brazil's civil service exam, thereby gaining influence within the government bureaucracy.

    As cocaine transshipment grows, West Africa's fragile governance institutions may be further weakened. African media reports and independent research already suggest that narcotics transshipment proceeds may be financing political parties and campaigns in Ghana.  A Nigerian politician arrested before boarding a plane from Lagos to Germany with more than 4 pounds of cocaine in his stomach explained that he needed the funds to finance his upcoming election campaign. Authorities believe he may be part of a wider network of smugglers. In Sierra Leone, the minister of transport and aviation was dismissed after trial proceedings revealed that he allegedly provided landing clearance to a plane carrying 700 kilograms of cocaine. There are similar reports of senior level police officers involved in cocaine trafficking from Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana.

    Narcotics trafficking is not intrinsically violent. Violence within the international trade in cannabis and Ecstasy, a popular hallucinogen/amphetamine, is comparatively low. But the overwhelming evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean indicates that where cocaine traffic moves, so too do homicide rates and conflict.

    If efforts of co-optation and bribery prove unsuccessful, traffickers may resort to violence to deter or resist attempts by government authorities to curtail drug flows and arrest traffickers. Trafficking groups also use violence to maintain loyalty and discipline as well as target other traffickers to resolve disputes, enforce agreements or contracts, and protect or acquire market share.

    In such environments, violence can spiral. Studies have shown that when violence within one criminal activity rises, all crimes can become more violent, gangs proliferate, and frustrated citizens may resort to mob justice including lynching suspected criminals. Often, the average age of violent criminals falls and the prevalence of violent youth behaviour grows. In short, a culture of violence emerges.

    Evidence from Latin America bears this out. The homicide rate there, the highest in the world, is more than three times the global average. Guatemala's homicide rate rose 50 percent between 2004 and 2008, an increase that paralleled cocaine traffic. According to a World Bank report on crime in the Caribbean, the "strongest explanation for the relatively high rates of crime and violence in the region—and their apparent rise in recent years—is narcotics trafficking."

    Jamaica has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and an estimated 40 percent of all murders are related to narcotics disputes. Indeed, there are 268 local and transnational gangs in Jamaica alone, comprising tens of thousands of members. Police shootings have correspondingly risen sharply while relations with civilians have suffered. Within the last 10 years, almost 2,000 Jamaicans have been killed by the police—slayings often followed up by the most cursory of internal investigations.

    Christopher "Dudus" Coke
    Such conditions can contribute to severe bursts of violence in Jamaica. In May 2010, authorities attempted to arrest and extradite to the United States a powerful Jamaican gang leader and reputed drug trafficker, Christopher "Dudus" Coke. Over the course of 3 days, Jamaican army and police units swept a subsection of the nation's capital in search of the suspect. Their increased presence was met with hostility by gang-controlled neighbourhoods  Over 70 people were killed in clashes and gun battles.

    Trafficking-associated violence can reach even more dangerous levels. In Mexico, traffickers frequently battle one another and the state to protect and expand their business. Government officials estimated 9,000 drug-related deaths in 2008, a dramatic upsurge from recent years that claimed the lives of many bystanders. Mexico has surpassed the 1,000 deaths-per-year benchmark used to designate a state of civil war every year since 1995. This high toll has occurred despite government expenditures of $2.5 billion per year to reduce drug-related violence and fund the deployment of 45,000 troops.

    The upsurge in cocaine-related violence in Mexico follows a prolonged period in which cocaine traffic was largely ignored by the state, likely due to successful efforts by traffickers to co-opt officials. Traffickers accumulated much power and influence, and some became de facto authorities in several regions, effectively creating "ungoverned spaces." When the government eventually confronted traffickers, the groups responded fiercely, revealing that the state no longer held its presumed monopoly on violence and security.

    Cocaine traffic has provided a vital financial resource to insurgency groups as well. Recent reports from Peru indicate that the military is encountering resurgent elements of the Shining Path, which apparently has been able to reconstitute itself with proceeds from cocaine trafficking. The 40-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group grew substantially during the 1990s when it began to traffic cocaine. Recently, the FARC diversified its cocaine trade from the United States to Europe by way of West Africa, a presence that could encourage insurgencies in West Africa and facilitate trade in strategies and tactics. According to independent reports, terrorist and armed groups in West Africa's Sahel region are entering the drug trade. The same is true in the Niger Delta, where militias have accepted in-kind cocaine as payment from traffickers. This permits a move into the wholesale market and sharply increases revenues.
    West Africa today sustains many of the conditions that enabled and fanned narcotics-related violence and conflict in Latin America and the Caribbean. The subregion hosts many insurgencies and terrorist groups who may view cocaine traffic as a prime opportunity to access financial resources. Likewise, West Africa's already capable traffickers in small arms, cigarettes, and humans may diversify into cocaine. In Latin America, these problems quickly metastasized into national security challenges, often before the state was able to implement effective responses.

    In 2009, indications of small-scale cocaine processing emerged in Guinea and processing labs were thought to be active in Ghana. This represents a dangerous evolution beyond cocaine transshipment and is further evidence that quick and robust responses are necessary. Lessons drawn from Latin America's experience offer critical insight into West Africa's emerging counternarcotics playbook.

    The threats posed by cocaine trafficking in West Africa are daunting, but they will be much harder to reverse if left unchecked. According to the World Bank, the Caribbean's rising homicide and crime rates have exhibited "strong inertia effects." This means that "once crime rates are high, it may be difficult to reduce them. At the same time, crime-reduction efforts in the short term are likely to have huge long-term gains." Since cocaine traffic in West Africa is still maturing, there is an opportunity to prevent its expansion. Deterring cocaine traffic is much cheaper, too. If West Africa can prevent further expansion of traffic, it can avoid the attendant spikes in crime and violence, flight of foreign investment, proliferation of gangs, overcrowded prisons, overburdened courts, and the rising defence and police expenditures seen in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Thus, West African political and civic leaders should strenuously press responsible government agencies to accelerate their counternarcotics efforts. Unfortunately, current indications suggest that recently devised strategies remain unused and poorly distributed. In October 2008, the Economic Community of West African States developed a regional action plan to counter drug trafficking based on five themes: data collection, law enforcement, legal frameworks, drug abuse prevention, and political and budgetary support. The action plan explores specific challenges and identifies aims, strategies, lead agencies, and potential partners for addressing them. However, assessments of country capabilities and needs by the UN Office in West Africa did not commence until November 2009 and only in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The assessments found that many national agencies in Liberia were not even aware that the regional action plan existed. That said, the Liberian government's collaborative work with U.S. authorities led to the extradition of several West African and South American nationals attempting to bribe Liberian officials to facilitate large-scale cocaine transshipments in June 2010.

    Safeguard the Integrity of Counternarcotics Institutions. The effectiveness of a government's ability to marshal resources to prevent and deter threats is, at bottom, a function of public integrity. Advanced training, new military equipment, and other capacity enhancements will have limited effect if institutions and public officials remain corruptible.

    Institutional integrity at even the highest levels of government in Latin America has been compromised by the proceeds of narcotics trafficking. Perceptions of a political-narcotrafficking nexus remain strong among citizens there, according to studies by the Organization of American States. Recognizing this, West Africa's leaders should vigorously implement their regional action plan's recommendation to target "corruption among law enforcement and judicial personnel" as a priority impediment to effective counternarcotics efforts and strengthen oversight bodies, prosecute offending officials, and train state institutions and civil society organizations to monitor and report corruption.

    Credible politicians and elections are also vital to public integrity. Accordingly, West African states should devise systems to properly restrict, audit, and, when appropriate, sanction political parties, politicians, and donors who engage in influence peddling. A critical component of implementing such a system is developing the capacity, both within government and among watchdog groups, for forensic accounting so authorities can trace the intricate money trail involved. An immediate and simple reform African states can take is to expand requirements for disclosure of political parties' and candidates' financial information such as balance sheets and cash flow statements, measures that have gained widespread support among Latin America's citizen groups and business community. This disclosure information should be updated regularly and made easily accessible so as to help expose suspicious accumulation of wealth to voters.
    Latin America's experience also underscores the critical importance of protecting judicial institutions. Until recently, Guatemalan criminal groups had extensive influence within government agencies, which they exploited to protect their activities. Murders of uncooperative law enforcement officials were not uncommon. In response, Guatemala's legislature created an independent International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which in 2007 was expanded through a partnership with the United Nations. The independent commission detailed jurists from developed and developing countries to work with Guatemalan counterparts to devise legal reforms and protect jurists and judicial integrity. Subsequent reforms to the tax secretariat and penal code helped dismantle illegal groups and identify sources of obstruction to good governance. As a result, 130 individuals have been convicted and 2,000 police officers, an attorney general, and three supreme court justices have been dismissed. One former president has been indicted and another exonerated. Attitudes have since changed and judges, prosecutors, and police officers in Guatemala's cities and countryside are now more able to do their jobs. The CICIG serves as a possible model in West Africa, whose legislatures should move to create and adequately empower similar commissions partnered with international organizations such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime or the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa.

    Raise Transaction Costs. Trafficking cocaine through West Africa is comparatively cheap. Make it expensive. Counternarcotics strategies need to focus on raising transaction costs. Arresting traffickers, prosecuting cases, tracking smuggling routes, and undertaking other counternarcotics operations are vital to stemming cocaine traffic. Moreover, efforts that merely hinder the business of moving cocaine through West Africa make it more arduous, expensive, and unappealing to traffickers. The more expensive it is, the less inclined cocaine traffickers will be to use West Africa as a transit route.

    Operations that amount to no more than harassment have produced impressive results in the Caribbean. From very low levels in 2000, annual cocaine seizures in the Netherlands Antilles reached 9 tons by 2004. To counter rising traffic, Antillean and Dutch airport security officers stepped up searches of arriving and departing passengers. But, rather than arresting offenders (the low-level mules), police offered them the opportunity to cooperate. If mules were carrying less than 3 kilograms of drugs, they were not arrested but were returned to their point of origin and given receipts explaining the drug seizures so they would not face retribution from their employers. This tactic raised the cost of transporting drugs through the Antilles. Meanwhile, the number of mules transiting the Netherlands Antilles dropped 96 percent.

    Efforts to raise costs do not solely entail interdiction. Nicaragua has had great success reducing the labour supply for cocaine trafficking through its youth engagement strategy, which offers occupational alternatives, specialized corrections programs, and rehabilitation for former gang members. The National Police also work with partners in government, the media, the private sector, and civil society to implement a Prevention of Juvenile Violence program. This initiative has stymied the expansion of Central America's large transnational gangs, which play critical roles in transshipment. While gang members in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala number in the tens of thousands, Nicaragua's tally dropped from 8,500 in 1999 to 4,500 by 2008. Nicaragua's success comes despite its lower per capita income relative to its neighbours  Drug trafficking is still a problem for Nicaragua, but a country with limited resources can apply novel approaches to hamper narcotics trafficking.

    The corrosive influence of narcotics trafficking across Africa threatens to become institutionally entrenched and poses severe and persistent security challenges. Such has been the case in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, even where narcotics production and abuse have remained low. Applying these lessons will help Africa minimize the debilitating effects of this trade and the risks it poses to the continent's recent governance, economic, and stability gains.

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  • 11/11/16--13:54: Eurozone Cocaine Routes

  • A new report provides insight into how traffickers move cocaine to the lucrative European market, including the key trafficking routes and smuggling techniques criminal groups have adopted to skirt drug interdiction efforts.

    The recently released 2016 EU Drug Trafficking Report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol explains Latin America's role in the European cocaine industry, and the different routes and methods used to traffic the drug across the Atlantic
    Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela are singled out as "key departure points" for Europe-bound cocaine, from where the drug is smuggled out in vessels,private yachts or by air, among other methods.

    According to the report, the increasing importance of Brazil suggests that Bolivia and Peru are expanding their role as suppliers for the European market. The traffic of Colombian cocaine into Venezuela across a "porous border" has similarly increased. From Venezuela, criminal groups use both flights and maritime routes -- capitalising on the busy traffic off the Venezuelan coast -- to send the drugs to Europe.

    Despite data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) suggesting otherwise, the report adds, Colombia is likely to continue being a key shipment point for cocaine heading to Europe, as evidenced by its growing production figures and continuing seizures. Ecuador and Argentina are also mentioned as departure points for the drug.

    The Caribbean and West Africa are reportedly the two most common transit zones for cocaine moving across the Atlantic, and Central America appears to be becoming an increasingly important stop-off point. The Caribbean Sea's main trafficking hubs are the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, although there have been reports that some activity has shifted to Caribbean countries further east.

    Central America and the Caribbean was the only area to see a rise in cocaine seizures in 2013, with confiscations nearly doubling to 162 metric tons from 78 metric tons a year earlier, according to the EMCDDA. Behind the increase was a 800 percent spike in Dominican Republic seizures, which reached 86 metric tons in 2015. The apparent escalation of illegal trafficking through the Caribbean is described as a possible result of recent crackdowns in Mexicoand Central America.
    West Africa's Bight of Benin -- between Ghana and Nigeria -- as well as the islands of Cape Verde, Madeira and the Canary Islands, make up the second major transit zone for cocaine heading to Europe. Nevertheless, the report points out that the Bight of Benin may be have lost importance in recent years.

    Once on the other side of the Atlantic, cocaine continues its journey by sea, land or air, principally to western or southern Europe. In 2014, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy reportedly accounted for 80 percent of the 61.6 metic tons of cocaine seized in the European Union.
    The largest ports on the continent -- Rotterdam in Holland, and Antwerp, Belgium -- are thought to be key entry points for cocaine. Dutch police estimated that 25 to 50 percent of all cocaine filtered into Europe through Rotterdam, following the seizure of 10 metric tons of the drug at the port in 2013. Of the 11 million containers that pass through the Rotterdam annually, only 50,000 are scanned (0.45 percent). Other key entry ports are Algeciras and Valencia in Spain, and Hamburg in Germany.

    The EMCDDA expressed increasing concern over the use of existing trafficking routes for other drugs to move cocaine, including cannabis corridors in Morocco and Algeria and heroin corridors in Tanzania. The report warns that Tanzania may emerge as a new cocaine route to Europe, given an increase in seizures in East Africa and as a consequence of the Panama Canal's expansion.

    The vast capacity for moving drugs and diversity of routes offered by maritime transport makes it the preferred option for cocaine traffickers to Europe. Traffickers are increasingly hiding cocaine in shipping containers aboard commercial vessels, which makes it harder to detect. Seizures involving containers have reportedly gone up sixfold since 2006.

    Colombian and Italian organized crime networks reportedly continue to dominate the cocaine trade in Europe, in cooperation with Dutch, British, Spanish and Nigerian groups. The Netherlands and Spain are primary distribution centres.

    One of the most interesting trends highlighted by the report is that traffickers prefer to transit through the Caribbean rather than Central America on their way to Europe. While this may appear to be the easiest route, in the past organisations were known to send drugs to Central American countries before crossing the Atlantic.

    The theory that the Caribbean is re-emerging as a popular drug route as Central American traffic declines has been suggested since at least 2010, and evidence over the years has both supported and refuted this theory.

    There is a general consensus that tougher interdiction in Central America and Mexico is behind the supposed revival of the Caribbean corridor that had been popular in the 1980s, although such predictions have mainly be applied to drug trafficking to the United States. Still, it appears that the Caribbean route is more significant for Europe-bound cargo, as Central America remains the main trafficking corridor for northbound narcotics.
    Another revealing takeaway from the report is the evolution of trafficking techniques used by criminals to skirt interdiction efforts.

    The growing use of shipping containers to move cocaine demonstrates how criminal organisations are taking advantage of increasing global maritime traffic to run their business. Part of this trend is the increasingly popular "rip-on/rip-off" technique, which relies on the use of corrupt port officials to slip drugs into legitimate containers by breaking and replacing the security seal at the point of origin. Concealing cocaine with perishable goods also ensures the drugs pass through controls faster.
    It is unsurprising that traffickers should take advantage of shipping routes -- maritime trade handles tremendous volume and is a sector often overlooked in the fight against organised crime, providing the perfect cover for drug smugglers.

    In addition, corruption, informality and a lack of resources in many departure ports makes it easier for groups to smuggle their drugs onto ships. Such is the case in Peru, where Mexican traffickers reportedly control Pacific drug routes to Europe.

    The report illustrates how criminal groups must be consistently creative to survive, noting new smuggling techniques used by drug mules that include ingesting liquid rather than powder cocaine, and concealing drugs in breast implants.

    Europe's relevance to the global cocaine trade is not to be underestimated. High profit margins for traffickers and a saturated US market are likely to increase its importance in the coming years.

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    Mr Untouchable
    Eric ''Mika'' Walter Amegan 

    In 2007, Nouakchott, Mauritania the police intercepted a minibus. On board a cargo of more than 760 kilograms of cocaine. In the vehicle, two Spanish: Miguel Angel Calderon and his compatriot  Juan Carlos Perro, a Mexican, a Saharawi named Bouya Ahmed, the owner of the bus and Ahmedou Mohamed. All were arrested but quickly released. 

    Investigations lead to a search made ​​in a dwelling belonging to Mohamed Ould Haidalla, the son of Mohamed Ould Khouna Haidalla, an austere lieutenant-colonel in the army, who led Mauritania between 1979 and 1984 uncovered seize 20.8 million ouguiyas (about 70,000 euros) in cash. 

    Simultaneously, the police managed to get hold of the aircraft used to deliver the cocaine which landed in open country, 125 km north of the city.Two days later police discovered a container at the port of Nouadhibou, inside 820,000 euros and forty satellite phones, which were probably used for earlier deliveries.
    Theodore Obiang Nguema and Friend
    Mohamed Ould Haidalla ran a network of 4x4 used to transport the cocaine across the to Sahel to Morocco and the port of Nador where its then sent by cigarette speed boat to Spain, France or Italy. Mohamed Ould Haidalla Agadir, who was arrested in Morocco with 18 kg of cocaine. Another player in the logistics chain is a man named Seydou Kane, a former member of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (Flam) who handles shipments with islamist groups.

    Mauritanian police also launched an international arrest warrant against the mastermind of the network from Latin America to Europe. A French citizen, Eric Walter Amégan. Eric "Mika" Walter, he only 28 years old, and it is he who is in direct contact with a Colombian national Eduardo who has his own cocaine smuggling gang specializing in routes "Latin-America-West Africa-Europe". 
     Mohamed Ould Haidalla

    The Colombian is, according to the testimony of Walter, assisted by a "Nabil" an Algerian national together with a group of Mauritanians including Yahya, Barikallah, Mini and Kane Seydou who shipped huge container shipments to Europe.

    Eric "Mika" Walter was born 31 October 1972 in Paris XIV (France), son of Augustine and Benedict Geoffry, real estate agents, residing in the residence Mangrove Saly, Mbour.

    "Mika" was arrested in Senegal in June 2009, eighteen months after the mini-bus incident, immediately, the Mauritanian authorities requested his extradition . But "Mika" clearly had high level connections. According to a French police source, Francis Spizner of the Paris Bar and lawyer several African leaders including Theodore Obiang Nguema intervenes with the Senegalese presidency to prevent the extradition, saying "Mika" risks the death penalty in Mauritania.  

    Eric Walter Amégan, a Franco-Congolese, actually confessed to Senegalese police his part as the head of an International cocaine network. He gave up names and contacts with which he cooperates, overseas and in Guinea Bissau . In his confession, he participated in the kidnapping and torture of his accomplice Mini Ould Soudani with the help of Sid Ahmed Ould Taya, police officer. He admits that he planned to land in Mauritania, a planeload of drugs from Latin America. 
    Seydou Kane

    Althrough represented by two top notch lawyers,Eric Dupont-Moretti and Jacques Vergès, it would seem that with a full   confession the fate of "Mika" was sealed, on 11th February 2010 he and six Mauritanian colleagues were sentenced to 15 years in prison.However on the 15 February 2011, with a presidential pardon from the new president of Mauritania, "Mika's" sentence was reduced from 15 to 10 years with his co defendants including ex Interpol police chief, Sid'Ahmed Ould Taya, reduced to just 5 years. 
    More good news for Mika in July 13 2011, Eric Walter and 30 of the 32 defendants were acquitted by the Court of Appeal of Nouakchott, he was released the next day and has not 
    been seen since.
    Sid Ahmed Ould Taya

    African middlemen are paid –similar to the interaction between Colombian drug cartels and Mexican associates in the 1980s and 90s– in small amounts of cocaine for their transport, merchandise-delivery and transfer services. These small amounts of what one might call ‘cocaine currency’ tend to be sent to Europe, either through human couriers travelling on commercial flights or through the mail. Most of the African ‘mules’ arrested in European airports come from Guinea, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. More than half of the airborne drug traffickers are of Nigerian origin, even on flights that do not originate in Nigeria.  Nigerian gangs often control street-level drug dealing in Europe. In France, most of the foreigners arrested for offences related to drug trafficking are Nigerian. Compared to other ethnic groups, they stand out because of their flexibility and strong ties among members of their ethnic groups. ‘Mules’ are not normally members of criminal gangs, but rather used by organised traffickers as a ‘means of transport’ in the literal sense: they are loaded up at their point of departure and unloaded when they arrive at their destination.

    In the second procedure, which involves wholesale trafficking, arge cargoes of cocaine from South America are transferred on the high seas to fishing vessels or speedboats, which have an African crew generally accompanied by a South American supervisor. They take the drugs to a temporary storage facility on the African continent. 

    Eric Dupont-Moretti Get Me Outa Jail

    There, the cocaine is repackaged and sent to Europe aboard yachts, freighters, again fishing vessels or speed boats, mainly to Galicia and the northern coast of Portugal. The Spanish and Portuguese authorities seized 69% of all the cocaine confiscated in Europe in 2006. Whereas Colombian groups have been all but overtaken by Mexican competitors in trafficking to the US, it is Colombians and also Venezuelans that dominate wholesale cocaine trafficking to Africa. 
    Red Cross False Flag
    Aside from maritime traffic, South American drug traffickers use small planes or light aircraft that are re-fitted to endure transatlantic flights that start in Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela or Suriname and end up in illegal airstrips in West Africa. But the spot where the cocaine-laden planes land in West Africa is not always clear, as it is just a moving point for the transfer of the drugs for later maritime shipment. There is some evidence that smaller amounts of cocaine are moved through the interior of coastal states to neighbouring countries, often those which have direct, regular flights to European capitals. 

    There have also been cases, probably rare ones, in which drugs were shipped from the beaches of the Gulf of Guinea over land to Morocco and from there to Europe, following the classic routes for sneaking in marijuana and contraband. For this reason the capital of Mali, Bamako, has been cited as a major transit point for South American cocaine even though the city is 1,000 km from the coast.

    Aside from Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, probably no State in West Africa is capable of confronting successfully and on its own the organised crime gangs that are settling on their territory. One hundred kilos of pure cocaine, dumped on a beach in Guinea-Bissau, would have a market value in Europe that is equivalent to all the development aid that the country receives in a year. Several hundred kilos of cocaine allegedly arrive weekly to Guinea-Bissau. The US$450 million in drug profits that UNODC estimates stay in the hands of African intermediaries each year are equal to all the foreign direct investment made in Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali and Senegal in 2005. The fragile or failed States of West Africa conduct in a very limited fashion the functions of governance in the areas of security, social policy and legitimacy/rule of law.

     In West Africa, cocaine trafficking rings find ideal conditions. It is a perfect geographical prolongation of the coca-producing countries; weak state structures are the norm, with limited territorial control and legal systems with limited scope. Both regions offer certain ‘comparative advantages’ for criminal elements, which encourages the establishment of trans-national black markets and easy creation of illegal added-value. 

    Due to growing pressure from government anti-drug agencies along traditional smuggling routes, West Africa attracts people involved in the cocaine trade because of the favourable operating conditions it offers. The result of this is a rise in organised crime activities in the region. As the drug trade takes root, consumption of drugs also increases. 

    This has been observed in many transit countries, where higher demand is fuelled by more abundant supply. This happens in Central America and Brazil, but also in Guinea-Bissau. In many cases the rise in consumption stems from the distribution of ‘cocaine currency’. Besides this, along with drug trafficking what is also expanding is a series of secondary effects such as corruption, violence, money laundering, and trafficking in light and small weapons. The most visible example of this effect has been observed in Mexico, where the conflict with and among drug cartels has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 2006, according to official figures.

    According to some estimates, more than 80% of drug-related violent acts stem from the resolution of economic conflicts or criminal elements competing for leadership. Contrary to what one might presume, only a small percentage of drug-related violence stems from people being high on drugs or crimes involving people seeking money to buy them. In West Africa, all it takes is a moderate bribe to neutralise the already weak control that authorities have on their territory, or the police. 

    The rise in cocaine consumption in Europe
    The first anti-drug strategy that the EU adopted for the period 2000-04 was aimed mainly at achieving a ‘considerable reduction’ in consumption and availability of drugs in Europe. This goal has not been met. Consumption of narcotics increased in almost every category of drugs, including cocaine. It is estimated that 12 million Europeans have tried cocaine at least once in their life; in 2007 alone, an estimated 3.5 million adolescents and young adults used the drug. Altogether, nearly 4.5 million Europeans sniff cocaine regularly.

    Although the US remains the largest market for cocaine, with an annual import volume of around 450 tonnes, Europe is catching up quickly: whereas the amount of cocaine seized in the US has been on the decline since 1990, at the same time there has been a significant rise in seizures in Europe and West Africa. 

    This is a clear indication of the growing volume of cocaine making its way into Europe. In the EU, cocaine-related crimes rose 62% between 2000 and 2005. Meanwhile, the increase in Europe is not distributed evenly among EU countries. In Spain, 16,799 cocaine-related crimes were recorded in 2000; but the number soared to 46,200 in 2006. In Spain, Italy and France, cocaine consumption has trebled in recent years and in the UK it has quadrupled. Britain accounts for 26% of Europe’s cocaine consumers, followed by Spain with 24% and Italy with 22%.

    How the price of cocaine is set. For the amount of coca leaves needed to produce a kilo of cocaine, an Andean grower receives about €250. That kilo has a commercial value of nearly €1,200 for a middleman in the producer country. That same kilo, while in transit, has a wholesale price of between €12,000 and €15,000.This kilo of relatively pure cocaine, later mixed with additives, sells on the streets of Madrid for €80,000, depending on the purity and the number of doses. 

    Europe’s tools for controlling narcotics are adequate, but it is not clear that they are based on a consistent strategy to block drug trafficking to Europe in a systematic way. Seizures that are just occasional –as opposed to systematic– only contribute to causing drug lords to move their current trafficking routes, and not to cutting them off or decreasing their number over the mid- and long term. 
    Narco Sub
    Drug trafficking rings learn quickly, and are flexible enough to adjust their strategies in response to those of government authorities. Traffickers’ most common way to rebuff increased government efforts is simply to move geographically. 

    They have sufficient resources, means and networks to shift to alternative routes, with different means of transport and new middlemen. The rise in the commercial value of cocaine in the US, which is highly volatile and does not tend to last more than just a few months, shows the ability of drug rings to adapt to the temporary strategies of government authorities.

    With the fall off the Cali and Medellin cartels in Colombia in the 1990s, the hierarchical, pyramid-style structure in drug trafficking is now more the exception than the rule, although it seems this model has re-emerged in Mexico in a big way. The common structure in transatlantic drug trafficking is similar to horizontal networks, with smaller groups that interact autonomously and lack a vertical command structure. Each group tends to handle transactions in one or two of the links in the drug’s production and commercial chain.  It is believed that, at most, current drug lords run a coordinating body, as is thought to be the case with the Norte del Valle cartel in Colombia. 

    Pablo Emilio Escobar Gavíria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993)
    These organisational structures are more like a holding company than the legendary figure of an all-powerful overseer. The advantage of this for organised criminals is that these decentralised structures cannot be wiped out with one definitive blow, as happened with Medellin cartel after the death of Pablo Escobar. The individual components of these organisations tend to interact without actually knowing their counterparts or possible bosses. The organisations can easily replace lower-level links, quickly filling holes left by arrests or violence waged by other groups.

    As organised crime gangs are skilled at evasion and at finding alternative transit territories and routes in countries with limited or non-existent governance structures, the model for enhanced control of drug trafficking might soon reach its limit

    Cape Verde is usually mentioned as an example of a country which in just a few years has improved its ability to monitor its land and sea borders. The State has recovered a certain ability to fight organised crime and impose a high cost for future illegal dealings. The EU and some of its member states have implemented a set of cooperation projects, facilitating material support and technical consulting for Cape Verde. 

    Nor does it seem right to impose sanctions on some countries, such as Guinea-Bissau, for not acting firmly against drug trafficking. Guinea-Bissau and many of its neighbours do not have the resources necessary for controlling their territory. Sanctions cannot change that, and will only make the situation worse Europe’s institutions and member states should reconsider their international anti-drug policy.  Portugal maybe an example of a viable alternative to the current policy

    Today, drug trafficking is the most lucrative branch of organised crime, and cocaine yields are one of the most profitable. In 2006, in Spain alone, authorities seized 50 tonnes of coke, Twelve million Europeans have consumed cocaine at least once in their lifetime. In 2007, in Europe there were 3.5 million adolescent consumers. .In Spain,  3% of the population regularly consumes cocaine. This group accounts for about 20% of all those in Europe who use the drug.

    There is a new dimension to the cocaine trafficking bound for Europe, and this requires more attention. After a significant rise in recent years, it is now estimated that nearly 60-80 tonnes of cocaine pass through West Africa each year before reaching European soil; in other words, two fifths of the cocaine that makes its way into Europe. The fragile States of West Africa are not in a position to take on Latin American organised crime gangs, which are much stronger in terms of resources. The establishment of the illegal drug market in those weak states goes hand in hand with a rise in instability, growing levels of corruption, possible financing of non-governmental armed groups and high incidence of cocaine use.

    Drug consumption follows the market laws of supply and demand: the higher the price of the drug, the lower the demand, and consumption drops. Cocaine’s price is high even though its production costs are very low. What keeps prices high are penalisation of trafficking in and consumption of drugs and the control of supply. 

    This system poses high risks for those working in this illegal market, who make up for this through charging high prices. At the same time, the control regime involves frequent drug seizures, which makes the product more scarce and that also contributes to raising prices. Therefore, any intervention in the chain of creation of added value must be evaluated in terms of the impact it has on prices. Embracing this logic has imminent implications for drug control policy: all measures to control supply, be they repressive, penal or linked to development policy, must be evaluated in light of the effect they have on the final price of cocaine.

    Cocaine’s production and marketing chain follows an exponential price curve: the further the cocaine is from the producing country in the commercial chain, the higher its market price will be. For instance, a kilo of high-purity cocaine has a street value of nearly €80,000 in Spain, and that is a conservative estimate. The same kilo in Colombia is worth about €1,200. However, the coca-growing farmer gets no more than €250 for the coca leaves needed to produce that kilo of the drug. Because of this exponential increase in value, potential situations of a shortage of coca leaves or cocaine in the Andean region would not have visible effects on the final price in Europe or on consumption levels. As far as controlling supply is concerned, it is better to intervene in the chain of creation of cocaine’s added value only when the price of the drug is high enough for the shortage to have an effect on that price –far from the producing countries and close to the final consumer. Right now the main coca producer is Colombia, with nearly 100,000 hectares.

     The three main coca-growing countries –Bolivia, Peru and Colombia– produced 994 tonnes of pure cocaine in 2007, according to estimates by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The 181,600 hectares used to grow coca leaves in those countries correspond to a surface area nearly three times the size of the city of Madrid. Total coca crops have been growing non-stop since 2003. In 2007, 27% more crops were planted than in 2003; in Bolivia the increase was 5% and in Peru it was 4%. Even though the amount of land used to grow coca is smaller than the estimate for 2001, cocaine production is higher. This is because growing methods are more efficient, and the processes for extracting the drug and refining cocaine are more powerful.

     In 2007, 121 tonnes of cocaine were seized in Europe in a total of 72,700 raids. Increasingly, the final transit countries for the cocaine before it reaches Europe are Venezuela and Brazil, followed by Argentina, Ecuador, Suriname and the former colonies and overseas territories of France, the UK and the Netherlands. Other countries of the Caribbean, and, more and more, Mexico, are also cited as stopover countries for South American cocaine bound for Europe.

    Venezuela has become a relatively safe haven for Colombian traffickers. Compared to Colombia, Venezuela offers big advantages for cocaine traffickers, thanks to corrupt security forces, a highly permeable and practically uncontrollable jungle border spanning more than 2,000 km, and patchy efforts at crime-fighting. Cocaine is shipped from Venezuela in speedboats and ‘semi-submersible’ vessels to the Lesser Antilles and from there to the US and European markets. An ever-growing amount is shipped directly from Venezuela to West Africa.

    Brazil shares with the three main coca-producing countries 7,000 km of border in the Amazon basin, which, because of its topography and vegetation, makes effective control of drug trafficking more difficult. Drug-trafficking rings take advantage of the porous nature of the Amazon region and ship cocaine to Brazil along rivers that are traditional routes for contraband. In this way they dodge stricter controls that are in place at ports and airports in the three coca-producing countries.

    The wholesale cocaine trade with Europe is dominated mainly by Colombian organisations that generally work with Spanish distribution networks, although lately they do it more often with Nigerian and Moroccan gangs. Colombian traffickers have shown little interest in the retail trade and street-level dealing. Although in Spain Colombians are frequently identified as drug peddlers, one can assume they have little to do with the wholesale networks operating out of South America.

    The Iberian Peninsula is an ideal entry and redistribution point because of abundant trade links with the cocaine-producing region and transit countries, an historical affinity with former Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking colonies, large and well-established networks of emigrants, closeness to Africa and extensive coastlines. 

    Since 2005 more evidence has emerged that Colombian and Venezuelan gangs were setting up shop in West Africa as a safe haven, turning the region into a beachhead for shipping cocaine to Europe. There are many reasons that explain why the drug business is taking root in the region. In general, a mix of push and pull factors are at play: growing demand for cocaine in EU countries, tighter controls on traditional direct routes between South America and Europe, a declining cocaine market in the US and excellent conditions for setting up markets and undertaking illegal activities in West Africa.

    Given the shortfalls in the security forces and rule of law in that region, which is home to some of the world’s poorest countries, the amount of cocaine that is seized is not as representative as in other parts of the globe. One can presume that the real amount of cocaine that is trafficked in the region is a multiple of the volume that is actually seized. The UNODC’s conservative estimate is that every year nearly 60-80 tonnes of the drug move through West Africa; in other words, one-fifth of the cocaine bound for Europe goes through the region. That is more or less a quarter of the wholesale trade, is worth about US$450 million and ends up in the hands of African middlemen and helpers.

    There is some evidence that in particular Ghana,Guinea-Bissau (which has earned a reputation as Africa’s first narco-state), Guinea,Cape Verde and Senegal have become staging grounds for the largest flows of cocaine headed for Europe.

    There has been a significant increase recently in investments by South Americans in some countries of West Africa, such as purchases of real estate or fish- or wood-processing plants. One might assume that the acquisition of this property, possibly designed to mask illegal activities, points to the establishment of lasting structures in the region. This would allow for expansion of drug trafficking in the future.

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  • 11/12/16--07:16: Nigeria Super Meth Lab

  • Nigerian drug agents arrested four Mexicans who were allegedly helping build a "super-lab" capable of producing billions of dollars' worth of methamphetamine, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency said Monday.

    Spokesman Mitchell Ofoyeju said it was the first industrial-scale production of crystal meth found in West Africa, and possibly on the continent.

    "The Nigerians invited the Mexicans in to leverage their expertise in these industrial-scale, high-yield productions," said Ofoyeju.

    The laboratory, which is located in Asaba, Delta State, was detected by the Special Enforcement Team (SET) of the agency, the NDLEA Chairman, Mr. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, said at a press conference at the agency’s headquarters in the commercial city of Lagos.

    “This is the first super laboratory discovered in the country, capable of making the drug in industrial quantities” Mr. Abdallah said.

    “This laboratory is similar to the ones found in Mexico in terms of size and has a capacity of between 3,000 kg and 4,000 kg of methamphetamine per production cycle,” he added. Methamphetamine added Ofoyeju, sold six thousand dollars a kilogram in Nigeria, but in Asian markets (preferred by Nigerian drug traffickers) the price rises to $ 300,000 per kilogram. Most goes to Singapore and Malaysia.

    The NDLEA boss said “another significant feature of this laboratory is that the production process is more technical and sophisticated because it uses the synthesis method of methamphetamine production”.

    The lab completed a first successful production in February and the agents raided it as the Mexicans were producing a second run, Ofoyeju said. Only 3.3 pounds of meth was recovered with 200 gallons of liquid methamphetamine.

    Nigerian methamphetamine is now competing with others in Asian and South African markets. The super laboratory does not need ephedrine because it uses the synthesis method," Ofoyeju was cited as saying in the local newsite "Drug cartels are now shifting from a simple method of methamphetamine production to a more complex process

    Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said its embassy in Nigeria was working with local authorities to confirm the suspects' identities and nationalities and determine their legal status.

    The raid came after an undercover operation that also netted the arrests of four Nigerians last Wednesday. The eight arrests happened in simultaneous raids in two southern towns and the commercial capital, Lagos.

    The anti-drug agency said the cartel first brought two Mexican methamphetamine experts, Cervantos Madrid Jose Bruno and Rivas Ruiz Pastiano to Nigeria but because the size of the laboratory and the volume of work  enormous, two other Mexicans, Castillo Barraza Cristobal and Partida Gonzalez Pedro were brought in.

    Separately, Nigeria's drug enforcement agency announced the weekend arrest of suspected drug baron Tochukwu Harris Ubah in connection with the seizure at Lagos port of 1,270 pounds of crystal meth and ephedrine — used in small-scale production. It was bound for Durban, South Africa.

    The first crystal meth labs in West Africa were discovered in Nigeria in 2011, and 10, smaller than industrial scale, have since been dismantled. The West African Drug Commission has warned that drug lords are corrupting politicians and law enforcers, and even running for office themselves.

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    A recent report has highlighted the increasing role of the East African nation Mozambique in the international drug trade, adding weight to warnings that the influence of Latin American criminals in Africa is no longer limited to a handful of west coast countries.

    The investigation, by Think Africa Press, explains how Mozambique's porous borders, extensive coastline and patchy governance have made it an increasingly popular transshipment point for international drug traffickers.

    Cocaine is typically smuggled into Mozambique by drug mules travelling by plane from Colombia and Brazil, while some also arrives by sea. Capture and seizure patterns at the airport of capital city Maputo indicate the majority of these mules are South African, Mozambican, Nigerian or Tanzanian nationals.

    Much of the cocaine then continues on to South Africa, which the report labels as the major regional consumer market, or is flown out to Europe and East Asia. The local sale of cocaine to Mozambican citizens and tourists has also become a by-product of the drug trade.

    Some believe that efforts by authorities to thwart drug trafficking activities are compromised by corrupt security and government officials, and a lack of resources.

    The other main drugs transited through Mozambique are heroin, mandrax (a sedative) and marijuana, which are mainly shipped over from South Asia.

    In recent years, Africa has emerged as a popular transshipment point for Latin American cocaine traffickers, who take advantage of corrupt and ineffective security controls and the continent's proximity to the increasingly important European market.

    The West African nation of Guinea-Bissau has become the most notorious African drug hub, as top level corruption has turned the country into a bona fide narco-state. However, there have been warning signs that the presence of trafficking is expanding, with a 2013 report by the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) highlighting how other countries in the region such as Mali, the Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique, also risk falling into the clutches of the global drug trade.
    SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

    Mozambique's location on Africa's eastern coast makes it a less obvious option as a transit point for cocaine arriving from the Americas, particularly for drugs arriving via maritime routes. However, the information from the Think Africa Press report suggests traffickers are using different methods than those employed on the west coast, employing commercial flights and container ships rather than moving product themselves. In a report issued in late-2013, Americas police association Ameripol highlighted the use of the coast of East Africa by traffickers, as part of a route passing through the Suez Canal.

    It is unclear whether the traffickers using Mozambique as a transit point are Latin American or African. While Latin American groups pioneered the use of the continent for trafficking, African organised crime groups -- particularly Nigerians -- are believed to be playing an increasing role in the cocaine trade.

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  • 11/12/16--09:00: Tanzania Shkuba Cartel Boss
  • Until February 2014 when he was arrested, Ali Khatib Haji alias Shkuba, 46, was the most wanted and most powerful drug kingpin in Tanzania.

    A man with deep pockets who was credited with leading a powerful drug cartel operating principally in East Africa but with influence extending to as far as the US, South America, Japan and the UK, Shkuba became almost untraceable and untouchable, even as authorities relentlessly plotted his capture.

    His role in the international heroin and cocaine smuggling business came to light for the first time in February 2014 when the then head of the Anti-Drugs Unit (ADU) Godfrey Nzowa, personally seized him shortly before he took a flight to South Africa.

    And the move on Wednesday by the US government to list him among the world's most notorious drug traffickers only served to reinforce the position that Shkuba would be unrivalled as Tanzania's top drug baron, according to the charge.

    The US announced it had frozen all of Shkuba's assets that are within its jurisdiction and banned its citizens and his associates from engaging in transaction with the Tanzanian. It was not immediately clear what properties he owned in the US.

    The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it had identified Shkuba and apparently his 'Hassan Drug Trafficking Organisation' as significant foreign narcotics traffickers.

    "Today's action imposes sanctions on Ali Khatib Haji Hassan and his illicit drug trafficking network for smuggling heroin and cocaine around the world and seeking to use their illicit profits to bribe African government officials," said OFAC acting director John Smith in a statement posted on the official website of the State Department.

    Haroun Mwau
    "Narcotics traffickers like the Hassan Drug Trafficking Organisation pose a significant threat to the international financial system and regional stability, and the Treasury remains committed to exposing and targeting those fuelling the global drug trade," he added.

    The US government described Shkuba as a major international drug kingpin who smuggles multi-ton shipments of heroin and cocaine to Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America via his East Africa-based drug trafficking organisation.

    By the time then anti-narcotics buster Nzowa arrested Shkuba at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA), the 46-year-old had avoided arrest for long.

    Upon his arrest, he was charged with trafficking 210kg of heroin worth around Sh10 billion. Anti-narcotics police seized the drugs in Lindi in January 2012 and linked him with the haul.

    Shkuba reportedly flew to South Africa the same day (February 2012) the drugs were seized and remained there for two years before he returned and got arrested.

    The US charge show that Shkuba was travelling around the world on five different passports issued in Zanzibar. The passports numbers included: AB269600, AB360821, AB564505, A0389018 and AB179561A0010167.

    His travel document depicts him as a resident of Zanzibar and has been using different names. The names are: Hassan, Ali Khatib Haji (a.k.a. Alex, Maiko Joseph; a.k.a. Haji, Ali Khatib; a.k.a. Haji, Ali Khatibu; a.k.a. Shakur, Abdallah; a.k.a. "Shkuba"; a.k.a. "SHKUBA").
    Anti-narcotic police in Tanzania had earlier in 2007 arrested and charged Shkuba with the murder of a young Tanzania who died in China after drugs he has swallowed burst in his bowels. According to police reports, Shkuba used the victim as a courier. He was, however, acquitted after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped charged against him for lack of evidence.
    Mama Leila

    In 2009, ADU arrested Shkuba and bonded him over and asked the Ilala District court to place him under the watch of the police and court because they had reliable information he was a notorious drug dealer.

    According to US authorities, Shkuba's Drug Trafficking Organisation obtains multi-ton quantities of heroin from sources in Southwest Asia as well as multi-tonne quantities of cocaine from South American suppliers.

    According to the statement, since at least 2006, the man has directed members of his network to send shipments of heroin to destinations including China, Europe, and the United States.

    "Hassan served as the primary distributor for Tanzania-based drug traffickers who regularly received multi-hundred kilogramme maritime shipments of heroin from the Makran coast of Pakistan and Iran. Hassan also oversaw an extensive drug network in Latin America that distributed South American cocaine into East Africa en route to Europe and China," says the US government.

    Shkuba was also among 12 people appearing on the list of notorious drug traffickers released by a Tanzanian prisoner in Hong Kong in August 2013.

    He now becomes the first alleged Tanzanian drug kingpin to have his assets frozen by the US government. US authorities also made a similar order in 2011 against a Kenyan woman Naima Nyakiniwa alias Mwanaidi Mfundo or Mama Leila and Kenya's maverick politician Haroun Mwau in a similar list to that issued against Shkuba. The woman is interestingly being held in Tanzania where she was charged with trafficking drugs in 2012.

    Leila and the politician were listed in 2011 by the US as wanted suspects over drug business. US president Barack Obama also froze their assets in the US.

    Commenting on the development, the now retired Mr Nzowa, said: "He (Shkuba) is the most arrogant, aggressive drug trafficker who used threats all the time."

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    How The Drug Money Flows Into The financial System
    Two boats pull into the docks. The first boat is full of a white agricultural product grown in Latin America called sugar. The owner of the cargo, Darin, sells his boat load of white agricultural substance to the sugar wholesaler on the docks for how much money $10,000.

    Now, after Darin pays his workers and all his costs of growing and transporting the sugar, and after he and his wife spend the weekend in Miami and he pays himself a bonus and buys some new harvest equipment and pays his taxes, how much cash does he have left to deposit into his bank account? 

    What is Darin's net cash margin on his sugar business? L
    et's say that Darin has worked hard he makes around 10% or $1000 cash profit margin. Let's call Darin's margin S for slim %.

    Back on the docks, the second boat---an exact replica of the boat carrying Darin's sugar---is a boat carrying Barry's white agricultural product called cocaine. The planting, harvesting and production of this white agricultural substance, Barry's cocaine, are remarkably like Darin's sugar.

    Well, where Darin is getting pennies, Barry is getting bills. If Darin had sales of $10,000, Barry had sales of that x 1000 or $1 million cash profit margin. Darin may carry the same weight of white stuff in a boat but from a financial point of view, Barry the coke guy has a lot more "sales per boat" than Darin the sugar guy.

    Now, after Barry pays his workers and all his costs of growing and transporting the drugs, and after he and his wife spend he weekend in Miami and he pays himself a bonus and buys some new boat and radar equipment and spends what he needs on bribes and bonuses to a few enforcement and intelligence operatives and retainers to his several law firms, how much cash does he have left to deposit into his bank account? 

    Barry the coke guy has a much bigger "cash profit per boat" than Darin the sugar guy. Even after Barry has set up his money laundering entities and after paying the  8-15 % money laundering fees, it's fair to say his tax rate of 0 percent is lower than Darin's tax rate. $920,000 -$850,000 VERSUS $10,000.

    If you look at  Darin's and Barry's sales and profits and ask yourself the following questions.

    Who is going to get laid more, Darin or Barry?

    Who is going to be more popular with the local bankers, Darin or Barry?
    Who is going to have a bigger stock market portfolio with a large investment house, Darin or Barry?
    Who is going to donate more money to political campaigns, Darin or Barry?
    Whose wife is going to be bigger in the local charities, Darin or Barry?
    Whose companies will have more prestigious law firms on retainer, Darin or Barry?
    Whose children are going attend the most exclusive private schools, Darin or Barry?
    Who is going to be more influential within their local community, Darin or Barry?
    Who is going to buy the other's company first, Darin or Barry? 
    Is Barry the coke guy going to buy Darin the sugar man's company, or is Darin the sugar man going to buy Barry the coke man's company?

    When they want to buy the other's company, will the bankers, lawyers and investment houses and politicians back Darin the sugar guy or Barry the coke guy? 

    Whose son or grandson has a better chance of getting into an Oxbridge or Ivy league school or getting a job offer at Goldman Sachs ?

    Citing findings by two Colombian academics,  Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejía in their study, Anti-Drugs Policies In Colombia: Successes, Failures And Wrong Turns. Ed Vulliamy disclosed “that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering  97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.”

    Don't listen to me. And don't listen to BBC, CNN or Reuters Who do you think pays their salaries? 

    Who owns the companies they work for?  Darin or Barry? 

    There is very little about how the money works on the drug trade that you cannot know for yourself by coming to grips with the economics over a fifty year period of Darin or Barry and their boat loads of white agricultural substance. It is the magic of compound interest.

    Many Boatloads Later

    It's more than fifty years now since the boats transporting Darins and Barry's white agricultural products docked in Miami. We don't know what the Narco National Product was 50 years ago, but lets say it was a billion dollars or less. Today, the Narco National Product is estimated to be about $400 billion globally and about $150 billion plus in the United States.

    It helps to look at the business globally as the United States is the world leader in global money laundering. According to the Department of Justice, the US launders between $500 billion - $1 trillion annually. I have little idea what percentage of that is narco dollars, but it is probably safe to assume that at least $100-200 billion relates to US drug import-exports and retail trade.

    So let's think about how much Darin or Barry have in accumulated profits in their bank and brokerage accounts.

    Let's assume that the US narco national product 50 years ago was $1 billion and it has grown to about $150 billion today. Assume a straight line of growth from $1 billion to $150 billion, so the business grows about $3 billion a year and then tops out at $150 billion. 

    Let's say that every year from 1964 through 2014, that the cash flow sales available for reinvestment from drug profits grew by $3 billion a year, throwing off that number times big %. Assume that the reinvested profit grew at the compound growth rate of the Standard & Poor's 500 as it got reinvested along the way. That amount is an estimate for the equity owned and controlled by those who have profited in the drug trade. 

    Total Narco dollars. How much money is that? 

    We made an Excel spread-sheet once to estimate total Narco capital in the economy. Our numbers showed` that Barry the coke guy had bought up not only Darin's companies, but ---a controlling position in about most everything on the NYE, FTSE, DAX and the TSE.

    When you think about it, this analysis make sense. The business people with the big % --- big cash margin ---- would end up rich and in power and the guys working 
    hard for a slim % --- a low cash margin --- would end up working for them. 

    NYSE's Richard Grasso and the Ultimate New Business "Cold Call"

    In late June 1999, numerous news services, including Associated Press, reported that Richard Grasso, Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange flew to Colombia to meet 
    with a spokesperson for Raul Reyes of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), the supposed "Narco terrorists" with whom we are now at war.

    The purpose of the trip was "to bring a message of cooperation from U.S. financial services" and to discuss foreign investment and the future role of U.S. businesses 
    in Colombia.

    Some reading in between the lines said to me that Grasso's mission related to the continued circulation of cocaine capital through the US financial system. FARC, the Colombian rebels, were circulating their profits back into local development without the assistance of the American banking and investment system. Worse yet for the outlook for the US stock market's strength from $500 billion - $1 trillion in annual money laundering - FARC was calling for the decriminalisation of cocaine.

    To understand the threat of decriminalisation of the drug trade, just go back to your Darin and Barry estimate and recalculate the numbers given what decriminalisation does to drive big % back to slim % and what that means to Wall Street and Washington's cash flows. No Narco dollars, no reinvestment into the stock markets, no campaign contributions.

    It was only a few days after Grasso's trip that BBC News reported a General Accounting Office (GAO) report to Congress as saying: "Colombia's cocaine and heroin production is set to rise by as much as 50 percent as the U.S. backed drug war flounders, due largely to the growing strength of Marxist rebels"

    We deduced from this incident that the liquidity of the NY Stock Exchange was sufficiently dependent on high margin cocaine profits (Big %) that the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange was willing for Associated Press to acknowledge he is making "cold calls" in rebel controlled peace zones in Colombian villages. 

    I presume Grasso's trip was not successful in turning the cash flow tide. Hence, Plan Colombia is proceeding apace to try to move narco deposits out of FARC's control and back to the control of our traditional allies and, even if that does not work, to move Citibank's market share and that of the other large US banks and financial institutions steadily up in Latin America.

    What are the four states with the largest market share in illegal narcotics trafficking? New York, California, Texas and Florida.

    It makes sense. Those are the biggest states. They have big coastal areas, borders and big ports. It would make sense that the population would grow in the big states where the trade and business flow grows. If you check back to the two businesses models. One was Darin's sugar business that 
    had a SLIM % profit. The other was Barry's drug business that had a BIG %  profit. It would make sense that these four states would be real big in both Darin's sugar business and Barry's drug businesses.

    What are the four states with the biggest business in money laundering of Narco profits and other profits of organised crime? Not surprising? Same four states. They are all known as banking power places.

    New York, California, Texas and Florida.

    What's next? What are the four states with the biggest business in taking the laundered Narco profits and using them to deposit money in a bank, or to buy another 
    company, or to start a new company, or just buy stock in the stock market? That's what I call the reinvestment business.

    Same four, right? New York, California, Texas and Florida.

    Who were the governors of these four states in 1996?

    Well, let's see. Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida. Governor Jeb was the son of George H. W. Bush, the former head of an oil company in Texas and Mexico and the former head of the CIA and the former head of the various drug enforcement efforts as Vice President and President. Then George W. Bush, also the son of George H. W. Bush, was the governor of Texas. So the governors of two of the largest narco dollar market share states just happen to be the sons of the former chief of the secret 

    Do you think it is possible to become the governor of a state with the support of the slim % profit businesses and the opposition of the big % profit businesses, particularly after the big % profits have bought up all the slim % profit businesses?

    When you think about it, a governor would need to win the majority of the people who donate from the slim % profit businesses but control the reinvestment of the big % profit industry cash flow to win. The competition for the support of the people who control the reinvestment from the big % business cash flow in the biggest states would be fierce.

    Drugs as Currency

    One of challenges of doing the numbers on the narcotics business is that narcotics are not always a commodity -- sometimes narcotics are a currency used to pay for other things.
    Former CIA Asset
    The arms industry sometimes markets to third world countries, or groups such as terrorists, who cannot pay with cash,but can pay with drugs. So, for example, it is not unusual to see arms-drugs transshipment operations, in which payment for arms is taken with drugs and then the drugs retailed in the US to facilitate the arms trading and profits.

    If you trace back the history of the family and family networks of America's leaders and numerous other leaders around the world, what you will find is that narcotics and arms trafficking are a multi-generational theme that has criss-crossed through Asia, North America, Europe, Latin America and Eurasia and back through the City of London and Wall Street to the great pools of financial capital. Many a great American and British fortune got going in the Chinese opium trade.

    One of the benefits of learning how narco dollars work is that it will help you sort through the money laundering and insider trading news on the War on Terrorism. Terrorism and narcotics trafficking often get linked through narcotics as currency. Terrorists need guns. Narco dollars need private protection and covert operations. Indeed, what a history of narcotics trafficking and piracy and various other forms of organised crime over the last five hundred years show is that our leaders have been in a double bind for centuries. The only thing more dangerous than getting caught doing organised crime, is not being in control of the reinvested cash flows  from it. This is why monarchs played footsie with pirates in Elizabethan times and no doubt have been doing so ever since.

    The Bottom Line

    Here is the bottom line on how the money works on narco dollars. After taxation, organised crime is a society's way of forming lots of pools of low cost cash capital. 

    Organised crime is a banking and venture capital business. 
    Unless Darin switches to cocaine, Barry will win his wife, his mistress, his banker, buys his company, buys his MP or congressman and gets be the star at the local charities. Everyone will admire and pay attention to Barry.

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    The Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas are expanding their operations and gaining territory in Asia and Africa, Their goal is to control shipping ports in Asia and Africa which will allow them to create new drug routes into Europe.Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel actually share drug routes that originate in Colombia and end at ports located in West Africa. Both groups also traffic cocaine shipments that depart from Venezuela,Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina which are also delivered to Africa.
    Ndrangheta Italy

    Once the Mexican Cartels have smuggled the narcotics – cocaine, marijuana, heroin and synthetic drugs – into West Africa, they transport them, often in vehicles or light aircraft to Europe. 
    Latin American DTOs are using two basic methods to transport drugs to Africa and Europe.
    Los Rastrojos

    DTOs hide drugs in large ships that travel from Latin America to Africa and Europe. Drug traffickers set up fake export operations and hide their drugs in the cargo of the ghost export businesses,submarines, fishing boats and private yachts. On arrival, operatives often use smaller “fast boats” to transport the drugs to land;
    The FARC


    DTOs hire drug mules to hide drugs in their luggage on commercial flights, clothes & inside their bodies. 

    Once the drugs have reached West Africa, drug traffickers often load the drugs into land vehicles, such as SUVs, and transport them to their distribution points in Europe. Security forces in Latin America and the United States have succeeded in recent years in slowing the amount of drugs smuggled north to the U.S. and Mexico by DTOs. This success has made the Atlantic drug routes to Africa and Europe more important to narco-traffickers. 
    The FARC

    The war on drugs and the closing of border crossings by authorities in countries where cocaine is directly introduced have forced the Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel to look for new routes to satisfy demand in the European drug market, which means ports in Western Africa. Sixteen African countries comprise the main points of entry for Latin American drug traffickers, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana,Guinea,Guinea Bissau, Liberia,Mali,Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Sierra Leone.

     Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel often collaborate with other Latin American DTOs. For example, the Sinaloa Cartel has created alliances with Colombian cartels and with Oliver Solarte and the Cifuentes Brothers (FARC financiers). The FARC is responsible for many of the drugs that are transported to West Africa and then to Europe. 

    The FARC is the biggest cocaine smuggler in the world, in Colombia, more than half of the drugs produced and exported to other countries carry the FARC brand. Other Colombian organised crime groups – the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Subversive Army of Colombia (ERPAC),
    Los Urabeños
    Los Urabeños, Los Rastrojos and Norte del Valle cartel.also transport drugs to West Africa and on to Europe.

     Los Zetas

    Both Los Zetas& the Sinaloa cartel has partnerships with criminal organisations in several European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The above mentioned alliances allow Mexican cartels to transport an estimated 47% of Colombian cocaine shipments directly into Europe via West Africa. 
    Sinaloa cartel 

    The European Union has proven attractive due to the economics of price elasticity and their distance from the supply source. Drugs are a lucrative product because addicts are highly “elastic” when it comes to high prices. The farther a kilo of cocaine travels from Colombia, the more profit it produces for the merchant. Prices from Colombia to Texas, for example, could jump from some $5,000 a kilo to $16,000 a kilo; to Paris, $25,000 a kilo, and further abroad to Australia could be as high as $250,000 a kilo. Economics demand that distance from the supply source in the Andean mountains results in a higher price at the local level. 

    The nature of cocaine as a product adds a significant amount of risk during transport, and the price of this risk is then passed along to the final consumer. For example, a route from Colombia to France increases the price for a pure kilo of cocaine significantly. There is a risk to move the cocaine out of Colombia and into Central America, likely Honduras, where it is stored until the DTOs are ready to move it to Mexico. Once the cocaine enters Mexico, it takes another jump in value due to the “market pressures” of government and rival action. The kilo then makes a significant jump in price when it moves from Mexico into the European Union through West Africa, or perhaps Spain, and finally again when the sales price is placed in euros, not dollars. In some cases, the exchange rate increases the value; in others, such as in Australia, the street price of a kilo of pure cocaine is so high that exchange rates have little impact on the business decision to transport cocaine across the Pacific.
    Norte del Valle 

    As an entry point to the European Union, West Africa remains a key strategic goal for all DTOs, where recent reports suggest that Mexican criminal organisations. continue to expand—although with little to no violence compared to other routes. In Guinea-Bissau, the Sinaloa Federation and multiple Latin DTOs can work directly with the military in that country. The business model that the  Sinaloa cartel most often employs, however, is one where they partner with local criminal groups and empowers them. They rarely use force to push them out of the way. Due to this model, the Mexican media has begun to refer to the Sinaloa Federation as a “narco-holding,” or a holding company for several smaller subsidiaries located worldwide.

    Los Zetas has also formed strategic partnerships with organised crime groups in Central America and the Caribbean. The cartel also has established an alliance with Ndrangheta, a Mafia organisation based in Italy. This alliance is beneficial for both criminal groups. Los Zetas transports the drugs to and within Europe while Ndrangheta guarantees secure distribution points. From Italy, the Ndrangheta is responsible for distributing cocaine in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, and Albania. In 2011, Italian police arrested 45 individuals linked to Los Zetas. In addition to drug trafficking, Los Zetas are involved in human trafficking between Europe and Mexico. 

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    Organised crime in West Africa in its contemporary form is generally perceived to have emerged in the 1970s, with the oil price rises of that decade, the delinking of the dollar from gold, high inflation, and the rapid spread of debt in the developing world. 

    It was not only the general economic climate of the 1970s that caused some people to turn to crime as a means of livelihood but also some of the institutional arrangements that were introduced to stimulate trade, like  the creation of ECOWAS in 1975, which facilitated movement between member States.

    After the end of the oil boom in Nigeria, in the early 1980s, Nigerians were also impelled to spread throughout the region and further afield in search of economic opportunity, and to seek out a livelihood, if necessary by any means. It is now firmly held that organised crime was first introduced in Sierra Leone by Nigerians. 

    Organised crime is regarded as having started in Côte d’Ivoire too in the 1970s, when the country attracted large numbers of immigrants in search of work. A problem of armed robbery emerged, as bands composed of immigrants were formed, later joined by Ivorians. 

    Civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone have facilitated the import of firearms by armed groups, including armed robbers, to Côte d’Ivoire. A roughly similar development appears to have occurred in Senegal, where armed robbery, marijuana-trading and weapons-trafficking have been connected to the emergence of a low-intensity armed conflict in the Casamance region since the early 1980s. 
    Casamance Rebels

    In Ghana, organised  crime appears also to have emerged in the 1980s, connected to the problems and the 
    opportunities offered by international migration. 

    Ghanaians were among the first West Africans in modern times to migrate widely, particularly with the onset of major economic problems in the 1970s, benefiting from the country’s generally high standard of education, the large number of people speaking good English.

    Crime, Society and Corruption
    A first point to be noted is that all West Africa’s current sovereign States, with the exception of Liberia, became independent only within the last 50 years. One of the features of colonial government, as also of the rule of Americo-Liberian settlers in Liberia, was the criminalisation by the state of a variety of activities that may not have been considered in precisely the same terms by many West Africans. In considering the West African role in the drug trade, it is quite common for West Africans to argue that it is not they who consider certain narcotics as illegal, but only those Western countries that once colonised them and are now the main consumers of these said narcotics.
    Armed Robbers West Africa

    Certainly, it is not impoverishment alone that is the cause of a growth of organized crime in West Africa. The frequency of military coups in the region, and the spread of war since the late 1980s, have created general uncertainty surrounding wealth and the manner of its acquisition. For example, the January 2004 arrest of an international smuggling gang in Ghana that had imported 675 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value estimated at US$140 million, led to the suspects being released on bail of just US$200,000, causing a great outcry in the press. There are other examples from Ghana suggesting that criminals are able to bribe judges, while in Côte d’Ivoire a minister of justice has hinted at a very similar state of affairs, referring to the country’s justice system as broken. 

    Transparency International publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index. In its 2003 Index, Ghana ranks at number 50, Senegal 66, Côte d’Ivoire 71 (the same as the Russian Federation and India), while Nigeria was ranked at 101, reckoned the second most corrupt country in the world. 

    International drug trafficking is a crime to which governments in Europe and the United States devote very considerable attention, and in which West African groups are reported to play an important role.

    For example, DEA finds that: “Trafficking groups composed of West African criminals ... smuggle [South-East Asian] heroin to the United States. 

    Nigerian criminals have been most active in US cities and areas with well established Nigerian populations, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, New York City, Newark, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Over the past several years, Chicago has become a hub for heroin trafficking controlled by Nigerian criminals who primarily deal in[Asian] heroin.

    In the case of West Africa, statistics are more than usually hard to come by, no police force in West Africa publishes comprehensive figures on crime seizures or arrests.  

    West African police forces generally have very poor or non-existent crime intelligence capacities, meaning that they have no systematic ability to extrapolate from available knowledge to estimate the size of criminal activity as a whole. 

    One of the few lessons, however, that can be drawn from seizures of  drugs within West Africa or transported via West Africa is that the region does play a significant role in the international transport of drugs.

    Côte d’Ivoire appears to be a major transit-point for heroin en route to Europe, and Ghana for cocaine headed for the same destination, although why there should be such specialisation between these two countries is unclear. While the organisers  of these narcotics trades are of diverse nationalities, a considerable number are themselves West Africans. Much of the cocaine passing through Ghana and other countries of the region appears previously to have transited via Nigeria. 

    Modes of operation
    West African organised  crime is project based. In this sense, criminal enterprises in West Africa use similar techniques to legitimate traders and business people typical of lineage-based societies. 

    The standard procedure is for an individual entrepreneur who succeeds in making money in a particular field, as the volume of business grows, to invite one or more junior relatives or other dependants to join himself or herself in the business. 

    These newcomers effectively become apprentices to the original entrepreneur. If further manpower is required, other personnel may be recruited (also via personal acquaintances or relatives) for a specific task, but not otherwise retained in permanent employment.61 One of the consequences of this mode of operation is that it tends to create very strong associations between specific families, lineages, or ethnic groups and particular trades and is nearly impossible to infiltrate for law enforcement. 

    agencies.  It should be noted that this casual and ad hoc approach to organization makes detection extremely difficult. Police services from various parts of the world report that the interrogation of an intercepted drug courier from West Africa often reveals frustratingly little about the principals who have employed the courier, often for a wage of no more than a few thousand dollars, to carry drugs across international borders. In many cases it is apparent
    that the couriers genuinely know almost nothing about the people employing them, as this is not done on the basis of an enduring relationship. 

    Also contributing to the difficulty of persuading intercepted couriers or other criminals to divulge information is the common practice of criminals obliging their junior associates to swear an oath of secrecy on a traditional oracle. Such an oath may imply the death of the individual who breaks it, causing great fear. More prosaically, the administrator of an oath, or the persons who cause the administration, may punish the family in West Africa of a criminal associate who betrays a secret to the police.Two aspects of this mode of organization are particularly worth noting for present purposes. First, we have said, the practice whereby a successful entrepreneur recruits personnel for specific projects only, rather than hiring them on a permanent basis, poses considerable difficulties to law enforcement officers.  

    This makes it difficult for law enforcement officers to build up accurate information on the 
    major figures in such a business. Second, the practice of recruiting through networks of kinship, typically based on a  village or other region of origin, means that the organization of a smuggling or other criminal network may be facilitated by cultural codes known to the perpetrators, but more or less impenetrable to outsiders, including law enforcement

    The effect of recruitment through personal networks is also to create an association between certain trades and specific places. Nigerian networks of prostitution, for example, are frequently associated with Edo State and with Benin City because those individuals who pioneered the trade have kept it in the hands of networks of kin and associates, thus excluding outsiders.  

    For example, a Nigerian law enforcement officer noted that drug-trafficking networks appear to be dominated by Igbo-speaking people from south-east Nigeria and Yoruba from the south-west, and by southern minority groups. Relationships of this sort enable successful drug-smuggling gangs to become “vertically integrated”, having associates at every stage of the trading chain from buying at source (for example, heroin purchased in bulk in Pakistan) to the point of retail sale (typically, at street-level in North America or Europe), with every stage in between being handled by members of the same network. 

    This both ensures maximum profitability and also enables Nigerian drug-networks to co-exist with the more hierarchical, cartel style operations who may dominate particular aspects of the trade, such as the more powerful Colombian criminal groups that may deal in very large quantities of cocaine.

    Heroin trafficking routes to West Africa are clearly linked to the routes of commercial passenger flights, notably Ethiopian Airlines flights from Bangkok, Mumbai and Karachi, transitting via Addis Ababa, Beirut and Dubai en route to West Africa; Kenya Airways, which flies from South Asian airports via Nairobi and Dubai; Emirates; 
    Air Gabon, which runs a service from Dubai to Cotonou; and Middle East Airlines, which runs services from several Middle Eastern locations to West Africa. 

    The most important entry points of heroin to West Africa are Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. Virtually all the heroin trafficked to West Africa seems to originate from Pakistan and India, with just one seizure reported of heroin from Thailand.  

    Specialists in different aspects of organised crime in West Africa have made the observation that long-term specialisation in a particular field or commodity is rather rare. An entrepreneur who has been successful in one field of operation may move into another field if the opportunity presents itself, including into legitimate commerce. 

    For example, an entrepreneur who has been successful in the drug trade may invest his or her profits in a legitimate business, not purely as a form of camouflage, but simply in pursuit of a commercial logic. By the same token, an entrepreneur who has become established in a field such as the import of cars or spare parts may use the capital, the infrastructure and the commercial contacts thus acquired to move into a narco commerce.

    Cape Verde Bust

    The Cape Verde islands are West Africa’s main entry point for cocaine, although Ghana, Nigeria and Togo also play 
    important roles. Most of the cocaine brought into West Africa is re-exported to other destinations, especially Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. There is also an important import and re-export trade in heroin, notably from South Asia.

    The key entry points are Ethiopia and Kenya, with Egypt to a lesser extent. Cargoes are then trafficked from East to West Africa, almost entirely by air courier, with Côte d’Ivoire forming the hub of the trade in West Africa.

    According to almost all accounts, it was pioneered in this region by Nigerians, soon joined by others, and police forces in Ghana and Sierra Leone both allege that drug trafficking was introduced to their countries largely by Nigerian seeking new operating locations. Of couriers intercepted with drugs transiting through West Africa,according to statistics compiled since 2000, 92 per cent were West Africans and no less than 56 per cent were Nigerians. 

    Moreover, a few of the remaining 8 per cent were West Africans who had acquired a second nationality through naturalisation. One experiment at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport involved screening passengers arriving from Aruba and the Dutch Antilles—a favourite drug-smuggling route used by some of the 1,200 couriers arrested at Schiphol airport. 

    When Dutch customs officers noticed the increasing numbers of Nigerians using the route, they experimented by checking every single Nigerian arriving at Schiphol from Aruba or the Dutch Antilles for a period of 10 days, rather than operating the usual spot-checks only. They found that of 83 Nigerian passengers using the route over those 10 days, no fewer than 63 were carrying drugs.

    Law enforcement agencies in a wide variety of countries, including the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, all report the regular interception of Nigerian drug couriers, and their police intelligence services believe  that some Nigerian networks have developed extensive working relationships with Colombian, Brazilian, Venezuelan, Caribbean, Mexican and European cartels, in effect receiving subcontracts from these major operators who have tended traditionally to operate in more hierarchical structures than the Nigerians. 

    It appears that, whereas the old-established cartels may have the ability to transport ton quantities of narcotics to the United States, the most successful Nigerian syndicates import smaller quantities but enjoy an exceptional range of contacts and an impressive flexibility of organisation that enable them to exploit market niches that the major DTOs cannot always reach. It is by these means that Nigerian drug traders have managed to gain a major stake in what is, literally, the world’s most violent market, yet without themselves using violence.

    Several West African countries are used as a base by organised networks of drug traffickers with international connections. Very large shipments via West Africa, to judge from the evidence of a handful of major seizures, tend to be controlled by non-Africans having one or more local accomplices. In addition, there are significant numbers of West  Africans who may attempt to smuggle narcotics from Latin America or South Asia to Europe or North America in smaller quantities, not more than a few kilograms, either directly or through West Africa. 

    There are certain consistencies in the routes taken by intercepted couriers or transporters of narcotics. Thus, many Nigerian individuals and networks seem to be working through Casablanca, using it as a staging-post for cargoes of cocaine from South America. There appear to be two ways in which couriers can use a north-south detour to minimise the risk of detection. The first way is for a courier to travel from South America, transit for example via London, and disembark in Casablanca, Bamako or Accra. 

    The law enforcement capacities for a thorough check at one of these latter airports are a lot weaker than in London, and therefore the risk of detection is less. A second method is for a courier to travel from South America via a relatively low-risk country, such as Senegal, en route to Amsterdam. On arrival, there is much less attention paid to passengers disembarking from Senegal in comparison to those coming from the Dutch Antilles, for example. Ethiopian Airlines is an airline favoured by heroin couriers, probably since it has convenient routes from Asia to West Africa. 

    There is evidence that drug trafficking networks in the region have the capacity to corrupt government official and influence the outcome of criminal justice processes. Although the press often refers to “drug barons” and “drug mafias”, there is actually no evidence for the existence of West African drug cartels in the sense of hierarchical, rather permanent, corporation-like structures. Evidence suggests that participants start on a small scale, for example as  individuals who try their luck as couriers, or as traders in legitimate goods who diversify into the illegal sector. Over the last decade West Africa has taken its place as a key export zone for organised crime, represented most clearly by its use as a transit point for drug trafficking and as a source for fraudulent activity. The future development of the region is threatened by high levels of organised crime, which erode trust in government and encourage corruption. 

    The opportunities associated with involvement in organised crime in West Africa are not matched by the risks, the growth and specific nature of organised crime in the region reflects, in part, severe problems with state capacity.

     Although most countries in the world no doubt experience a problem of organised crime to greater or lesser extent, the evidence available does suggest that West African criminal entrepreneurs have, in the last decade, grown to become global players.  

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    Spanish and Moroccan police seized 5,677 pounds of cocaine and arrested 24 suspects in what officials said was a blow against one of the main drug-trafficking organisations operating in Europe, Africa, and South America.

    Authorities tracked the cocaine shipment as it headed from South America to Spain and was transferred to a Moroccan fishing vessel near Cabo Verde, La Voz de Asturias reported. On November 12, security agents intercepted the boat around 160 kilometres off the coast of the disputed territory of Western Sahara. As part of the operation, 18 people were arrested in Morocco and 6 others in Spain.

    The group had Colombian origins and was headquartered in Spain -- where the leader of the Colombian "oficina" (literally translated as "office") reportedly operated -- and had another base in Morocco. Its members were Colombian, Spanish and Moroccan nationals.

    The seizure was part of an operation that started this summer and saw several failed attempts to interdict shipments sent by the multinational trafficking ring to Europe from South America.

    This operation, undertaken by Spanish police and their Moroccan counterparts, took place about 100 miles off the coast of Dakhla, in Western Sahara, over which Morocco has de facto administrative control.

    After spotting the boat believed to be carrying the drug shipment moving parallel to the coasts of Mauritania and Morocco, authorities moved in with a helicopter and two patrol boats.

    With police closing in, 12 people on board, all of whom were arrested, reportedly began throwing bundles of cocaine overboard. Aboard, authorities also found documents, a satellite phone, and about $10,700.

    In total, the operation led to the arrest of 18 people in Morocco and six people in Spain, among them two Colombians arrested in Madrid, one of whom was reportedly the leader of the group trying to travel to Colombia, and two Spaniards in Pontevedra, in the northern province of Galicia.

    According to Spanish national police, the arrests targeted the "most active" group operating in Europe, Africa, and South America, which had a significant logistical and economic capacity allowing it to deploy a number of ships to move cocaine.

    The group reportedly used three or four boats at a time to break up the size of the shipments and complicate police efforts to interdict them.

    The police investigation began at the start of summer in Galicia, Spain's northwestern-most province. The operation was stymied at first by the imprisonment (for another crime) of a Galician who was believed to be the contact person for drug shipments arriving in the province.

    West Africa drug smuggling route
    With that person in jail, responsibility for trafficking passed to a Colombian group that worked with a group in Galicia but was led out of Madrid and had links to Colombia, a major cocaine production center, and Venezuela, a major drug-transit area.

    After some failed attempts to intercept shipments, agents from Spain and Morocco began monitoring a vessel departing South America with a new drug cargo. When that cargo reached the African coast near Western Sahara, authorities moved in.

    The interdiction was the first joint Spanish-Moroccan anti-drug operation against international maritime cocaine trafficking.

    The general routes drug shipments from South America travel on their way to Europe and other parts of the world.European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction

    "This latest police action constitutes an important blow against one of the principal narco networks that operates on three continents," said Juan Ignacio Zoido, Spain's interior minister.

    Europe's drug gateway
    Overall, cocaine seizures in Europe have declined from highs reached in the mid- to late-2000s, but Spain and Portugal remain important entryways for illegal drugs headed to those countries and to other places on the continent.

    According to data from the Spanish Interior Ministry, national police, civil guard, and customs authority, the country is seventh in the world in terms of cocaine seizures.

    In 2015, the amount of the drug seized there rose to 40% of the continent's total, state security secretary Francisco Martinez said in November. (Martinez stepped down a few days later in a "mutual agreement" with Zoido.)

    Northwestern Africa is also a major transit point for illegal drugs headed to Europe.

    Overland routes carry drugs from West African countries to southern Europe, while Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, both off Africa's west coast, have also seen drug traffic, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's 2016 report.

    Drug shipments coming directly into Spain and Europe have increasingly come by container aboard cargo ships.

    Traffickers in South America load drugs in with legitimate cargos, often with the help of ship or dockyard workers, in addition to Colombia, ports in Brazil and Argentina have also become major departure points for cocaine headed to Europe.

    In September, police in southern Spain intercepted 2,000 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of bananas from Colombia.

    "The countries that seized the most cocaine over the period 2011–14 were Spain (accounting for about 50% of all seizures) and Belgium," followed by France, Italy, the UK, and Portugal, the EMCDDA reported.

    This seizure is representative not only of the cocaine trafficking route that goes from the Americas to West Africa and Europe, but also the expansion of a Colombian-style crime syndicate across the Atlantic, notably via the so-called oficinas. While these were originally debt collection offices for traffickers in cities such as Medellín, today they are essentially foreign branches of Colombian organised crime that provide services to international criminal organisations and that set up drug shipments. Colombia's largest criminal organization, the Urabeños, is one of the most recent groups to begin setting up oficinas in Spain.

    It is unclear whether or not this dismantled network had ties to larger groups, but the Atlantic cocaine route to Europe has long been used by powerful criminal organizations from across the world.
    Italy's 'Ndrangheta mafia has been one of -- if not the most -- important European player in Latin America for decades, and has tentacles all across the continent. More recently, Eastern European networks, particularly from Serbia and Montenegro, have been increasing their clout in drug transportation from Latin America. This was illustrated only months ago, with the arrest of a Serbian crime boss in Peru.

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  • 04/24/17--09:57: Inside A Narco State

  • By day, Guinea-Bissau looks like the impoverished country it is. Most people cannot afford a bus fare, never mind a four-wheel drive. There is no mains electricity. Water supplies are restricted to the wealthy few, and landmark buildings such as the presidential palace remain wrecked nine years after the end of the war. But this wreck of a country is what the UN calls the continent's 'first narco-state'. West Africa has become the hub of a flow of cocaine from South America into Europe, now that other routes have become tough for the traffickers.

    US drug enforcement agents report that the old cocaine channels through the Caribbean, markedly Jamaica and Panama, have become more intensively policed, forcing the Colombians to develop new routes to traffic cocaine. The increasing might of Mexico's powerful drug cartels has forced the South Americans to search for trafficking routes to Europe across the Atlantic rather than through Central America.

    Moreover, the West African coast can be reached across the shortest transatlantic crossing from South America: either by plane from Colombia, with a re-fuelling stop in Brazil; or by ship from Brazil or Venezuela. The boats leaving South America on the five day journey travel by night, remaining motionless by day, covered in blue tarpaulins to avoid detection from the air.

    From the investment perspective of a drug trafficker assessing the “ease of doing business,” Africa potentially offers a number of attractive features to the international narcotics supply chain:

    1. Geographically advantageous relative to producer and high-value user countries or to critical interim destinations to reach those markets. Geography here is conceived not just in terms of physical distance between producers and consumers, but also in terms of how they are connected through high-traffic air and sea ports, land routes, or the international finance and banking system.

    2. Sufficient concentration of authority in relatively few individuals, particularly over air, sea, and land connections, who are amenable to facilitating complex movement of bulk drug shipments. Amenability of individuals to cooperation is shaped by some combination of: Poor salary, weak career prospects, limited institutional pride, low professionalism, weak national identity, lack of community, etc. High need for revenues among key individuals, whether because of weak or uncertain alternative sources of funds or because of competition within prevailing political economy.

    3. Low risk of discovery due to weak oversight, independent media, or civil society. Low risk of prosecution due to unclear legal code, such as a lack of criminalisation of drug smuggling, or a manipulable judicial system, which allows for skipping bail or corrupting key figures.

    4. Low cost of operations, primarily in terms of payments to local facilitators for services. Weak, incomplete, or opaque regulatory environment allowing for simple acquisition of land and front companies.

    Guinea-Bissau is attractive to traffickers because it is close to the growing market in Europe and has reasonably good connections to Portugal, a key landing point for drugs in Europe, as well as other African hubs such as Senegal,Mauritania,The Gambia, or Morocco.

    Although much of the cocaine goes directly to Spain and Portugal, London is becoming an increasingly prominent final destination because of the street prices the drug commands - yet the U.K has no permanent diplomatic presence in Bissau, and has not joined the Iberian countries and the EU in contributing to the latest UN plans to help the country. According to the UNODC, the UK and Spain have now overtaken America in the consumption of cocaine per head.

    Guinea Bissau's cocaine era began when fishermen on one island found packages of white powder washed up on the beach. They had no idea what the mysterious substance was. 'At first, they took the drug and they put it on their bodies during traditional ceremonies," recalls local journalist Alberto Dabo. 'Then they put it on their crops. All their crops died because of that drug. They even used it to mark out a football pitch'.

    The real moment of truth came when two Latin Americans arrived by chartered plane, armed with $1 million in 'buyback' cash, which the locals gleefully accepted. The two men were apprehended by police, but released. When people found that it was cocaine and they could sell it, some of those fishermen bought cars and built houses.

    As well as the favourable location, in Guinea Bissau the cocaine gangs have found a country where the rule of law barely exists. Law enforcement has literally no control for two reasons: there is no capacity and there is no equipment. The infiltration of West Africa by drug cartels has happened with lightning speed. Since 2003, 99 per cent of all drugs seized in Africa have been found in West Africa. Between 1998 and 2003, the total quantity of cocaine seized each year in Africa was around 600kg.
    Blue Atlantic 2.5 tonnes $500 Million

    But by 2006, the figure had risen five-fold and during the first nine months of last year had already reached 5.6 tonnes. The latest seizure, from a Liberian ship - Blue Atlantic - intercepted by the French navy last month, was 2.4 tonnes of pure cocaine. But while seizure rates globally are estimated to be 46 per cent of total traffic, the amounts found in West Africa are 'the tip of the iceberg. Even though one recent raid in Guinea-Bissau netted 635kg of cocaine, the traffickers were thought to have still made off with a further two tonnes.

    The street value of the drugs trafficked far exceeds gross national product. A quarter of all cocaine consumed in Western Europe is trafficked through West Africa, for a local wholesale value of $1.8bn and a retail value of 10 times that in Europe. In Guinea-Bissau, the value of the drugs trade is far greater than the national income.
    Civil War Devastated Guinea-Bissau 

    Guinea Bissau, with a population of 1.6 million, is ranked fifth from bottom in the UN's world development index. Even its recent history is one of torment: after 13 years of bloody guerrilla conflict, it won independence from Portugal, spent the first years under a Marxist Leninist dictatorship, then 18 under João Bernardo Vieira, until he was ousted by a military rebellion. Successive crises, two wars and economic collapse brought Vieira back in 2005, with a purge of the army and deceptive stability.
    Drug Mule working For Nigerian Cartel 

    Nigerian drug gangs have always been an energetic presence on the global trafficking scene. Asian and African cartels trafficking heroin across the Atlantic in the opposite direction, to the US. Last year, the DEA and police in Chicago tracked nine West Africans who had moved heroin originating in South-east Asia through various West African countries, markedly Guinea-Bissau, to the US. Geographically, West Africa makes sense.
    Narco Sub Can Carry Up To 800 Tonnes

    The logical things is for the cartels to take the shortest crossing over the ocean to West Africa, by plane - to one of the many airstrips left behind by decades of war, or by drop into the thousands of little bays - or by boat all the way. A ship can drop anchor in waters completely unmonitored, while fleets of smaller craft take the contraband ashore. Guinea Bissau is a failed state, it's like moving into an empty house. There is no prison in Guinea-Bissau. One rusty ship patrols a coastline of 350km, and an archipelago of 82 islands. The airspace is un-patrolled. The police have few cars, no petrol, no radios, handcuffs or phones.

    You walk in, buy the services you need from the government, army and people, and take over. The cocaine can then be stored safely and shipped to Europe, either by ship to Spain or Portugal, across land via Morocco on the old cannabis trail, or directly by air using "mules".

    First emerging in the mid-2000s, narcotics trafficking has steadily worsened, with indications that large shipments arrived on a weekly or biweekly basis and that at least 25 tons of cocaine entered the country from April to July of 2012. In other words, more than half the total annual cocaine flow previously estimated to be trafficked through the entire West African region transited Guinea-Bissau in less than 4 months. These rising drug flows, which may rival the value of Guinea-Bissau’s entire economy have severely impacted the country’s governance and security.

    Yet while it is a small country of just 1.6 million people, its recurring instability, especially its pivotal role in the drug trade, has had significant and worsening consequences across West and North Africa. Likewise, the length of trafficking routes into and through West Africa inevitably mean that the increasingly numerous shipments arriving in Guinea-Bissau must move through neighbouring West African countries before reaching their final destinations in Europe.
    Luxury Villa Dakar Senegal 

    With the increase in trafficking, attendant criminality also spreads. Money tied to the drug trade must find channels for laundering, which often means buying property in Senegal or The Gambia, bartering for gold, diamonds, and other commodities in Liberia, or investing in dodgy and unproductive businesses elsewhere, which crowds legitimate entrepreneurs out of the first narco-state.

    Estimates vary as to the cogency of the Colombian presence, but one observer suggests there are as many as 60 Colombian drugs traffickers in Guinea-Bissau. Colombians have bought local businesses, including factories and warehouses, and built themselves large homes protected by armed guards. They and their local hired help flaunt their liberty to operate - and the money they make from doing so.

    Guinea-Bissau's armed forces and some politicians are thought to be deeply involved in the drugs trade. Last year, two military personnel were detained along with a civilian in a vehicle carrying 635kg of cocaine. The army secured the soldiers' release and so far there is no sign that they will face charges. Civil-military relations in Guinea-Bissau have deteriorated significantly over the last decade, resulting in the steady expansion of political meddling by military officers, fragmentation within the armed forces, and a shattered military professional ethos.

    Guinea-Bissau’s military is old, top heavy, over-sized, and suffers from institutional sclerosis. Even after a demobilization campaign following the 1998-1999 civil war reduced the armed forces by roughly half, the military’s troop-to-population ratio remains double the West African average.

    According to a 2008 study, more than half the army is over the age of 40, and 45 percent of all active duty members have more than 20 years of service. Personnel are heavily concentrated in the capital,
    with 70 percent based in Bissau. There are twice as many senior officers in the armed forces as there are rank and file troops. In other words, the armed forces is less a dynamic and mission-focused institution serving the state than an exclusive club of aging individuals that frequently operates for their personal interests.
     Le Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance

    Merit, performance, and leadership have far less impact than loyalty, seniority, and patronage on promotional advancement. These institutional shortcomings have contributed to a worsening tendency of the military to interfere in the country’s politics. A milestone of these altered civil-military relations was Guinea-Bissau’s 1998-1999 civil war.

    Then Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces General Asumane Mané launched the conflict in 1998 after he had been sacked by then President Vieira for allegedly trafficking arms to support Le Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), a rebel group in Senegal. (It later emerged that Vieira was also involved in arms trafficking). Vieira had miscalculated, though, and only curried minimal support from the armed forces and population.He was forced to rely on 2,000 troops quickly deployed by neighbouring Senegal and Guinea after Mané launched the conflict. With most of the country behind him, Mané eventually emerged victorious in 1999, and Vieira fled to Portugal.
    Chief of Staff General Veríssimo Correia Seabra

    Civil-military relations in Guinea-Bissau have been in decline ever since. after the civil war, elections for parliament and the presidency were held in 1999 and 2000. Not long after the presidential elections in 2000, a sign was erected above Mané’s offices declaring him “co-president.” He ignored or refused measures by the new civilian government to promote or shift troops and officers. Meanwhile, loyalty to Mané within the military began to fray as Mané became more deeply involved in politics. Some members of the armed forces sided with newly elected President Kumba Ialá, who had tried to consolidate his authority among the rank and file by favoring his fellow ethnic Balanta. Ialá ordered Mané arrested for subverting his authority, and Mané was killed in November 2000 by soldiers loyal to Mané’s successor,military Chief of Staff General Veríssimo Correia Seabra.

    In 2003, General Seabra overthrew the increasingly unpopular and erratic President Kumba Ialá, who was blamed for a widely dysfunctional government and economic crisis. Like Mané, Seabra oversaw a return to civilian rule and elections, but fragmentation within the armed forces worsened as groups began to align behind different senior officers and military factions. Seabra was a victim of this deterioration when he was killed in a revolt in 2004. General Batista Tagme Na Wai rose to the top military post after Seabra’s death. Na Wai’s selection, which was largely determined by military elites as opposed to the civilian government, was a sign of how contentious things had become in the upper ranks of the military.
    General Batista Tagme Na Wai Funneral

    He was a member of former President Ialá’s ethnic group, the Balanta, but many of his deputies and newly promoted officers were closely aligned with former President Vieira in a delicate effort to balance competing groups in the armed forces and civilian political class. General Na Wai had an extremely antagonistic relationship with President Vieira, who had returned from exile and narrowly won a second-round presidential vote in 2005 as an independent candidate. For instance, one soldier was killed when so-called mutinous troops attacked the presidential palace in November 2008,and General Na Wai survived “accidental” gunfire directed at his motorcade by members of Vieira’s security detail. It was assumed that such incidents were orchestrated by each side.

    On March 1, 2009, Na Wai was killed in a bombing. Hours later, troops loyal to Na Wai stormed the presidential residence, tortured, and fatally shot Vieira. Later it was reported that the device used to kill Na Wai was more sophisticated than anything previously seen in Guinea-Bissau. The explosive may have originated in Thailand, leading to suggestions that Latin American drug cartels had sponsored a connection between Na Wai’s rivals in Bissau and high-profile weapons traffickers. Na Wai’s successor was Vice Admiral José Zamora Induta, a deputy under General Mané during the civil war.
    President Nino Vieira

    Induta was in office for just a year when without explanation on April1, 2010, his deputy, General António Indjai, arrested him, other military officers, and then prime minister and presidential aspirant, Carlos Gomes Jr. The latter, in particular, had been a strong supporter of Indjai’s rivals within the military and was advancing robust changes within the security sector. Indjai declared himself military chief of staff. Ultimately, Gomes Jr. was released under intense pressure from large public demonstrations, influential civil society leaders, and international partners. Vice Admiral Induta and another officer were detained for 8 months without charge.
    Vice Admiral José Zamora Induta

    Among the first prominent actors behind the surge in the cocaine trade in Guinea-Bissau was President Vieira during his return to office from 2005 to 2009. Many senior military officers also became deeply involved. During General Na Wai’s years as chief of staff of the armed forces, cocaine was found at military installations; 25 soldiers were arrested from vehicles transporting cocaine; military officers intervened in police drug investigations to release prisoners and confiscate cocaine; and in one well-known incident in July 2008 troops cordoned off and unloaded 500-600 kilograms of drugs from a private plane that landed at the country’s main airport from Venezuela.

    Over time, the flow of cocaine has expanded and grown more sophisticated. Even though actual seizures and interdictions have been intermittent the UN Secretary General reported to the UN Security Council in December 2012 that hundreds of kilograms of cocaine were entering Guinea-Bissau each week (with an approximate European wholesale value of at least $10-20 million).
    General António Indjai

    Many key figures have been involved. Rear Admiral José Américo Bubo Na Tchuto, twice the head of the navy, and General Ibraima Papa Camará, chief of staff of the air force, served as top military leaders even though they were sanctioned as drug traffickers by the U.S. government in April 2010. Na Tchuto was arrested along with several other Bissau-Guineans in April 2013 in international waters by U.S. authorities following a 7-month-long drug sting operation. He was recorded on multiple occasions agreeing to facilitate the transhipment of 4 tons of cocaine into Guinea-Bissau and, eventually, into the United States and Europe. Na Tchuto’s commission was $1 million per ton.
    Rear Admiral José Américo Bubo Na

    Four other military officers including General Indjai were involved in a separate investigation. This plan involved smuggling cocaine in a shipment of military uniforms into Guinea-Bissau from Colombia by plane, after which the plane would return to Colombia bearing sophisticated weaponry purchased by the Guinea-Bissau military. According to the indictment of Indjai, he was recorded telling U.S. law enforcement informants that he would arrange for the purchase of surface-to-air-missiles and to ship cocaine. In 2012, near his home village of Mansôa, General Indjai struck ground on a sizable new estate with apparent plans for a private landing strip, presumably to better manage, protect, and conceal drug shipments.

    Since the coup, there have been few interdictions, reflecting the more conducive operating environment for traffickers. Competition for the Office of the President has characterized much of Guinea-Bissau’s history. This tension is a structural feature of Guinea-Bissau’s political system, whereby a disproportionate concentration of power resides in the presidency.

    Individuals aligned with the president gain access to financial opportunities and career advances unavailable to the general population. Outsiders are also subject to intimidation and the arbitrary application of the law. President Vieira was certainly amenable to trafficking and retained sufficient authority to facilitate its movement. He may even have been one of the first individuals to introduce bulk cocaine trafficking through Africa to Europe based on connections he developed while exiled in Portugal, Senegal, and Guinea from 1999 to 2005.

    As the trafficking developed, military leaders also became involved, given their authority over land, air, and sea routes as well as their ability to protect bulk shipments. In fact, the military’s previous involvement in arms trafficking may have facilitated a segue into drug trafficking. The military and Vieira as well as other key elites were already in competition for power and had few comparable alternative revenue streams. They would, therefore, welcome the huge funds associated with drug trafficking to strengthen their positions. There were few other institutions that could intervene: the National Assembly, the Judicial Police, and the judiciary remained too weak.

    Vieira was killed by soldiers immediately following the still unexplained assassination of Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Na Wai, in March 2009. In the lead up to elections to replace Vieira, several prominent politicians, including one candidate for president, were assassinated under mysterious circumstances, indicating how high the stakes for the presidency remained. Eventually, Malam Bacai Sanhá, a hero of the liberation era and long-time leader in the PAIGC, was elected in a second-round runoff in July 2009.

    Among the most common means of transporting drugs into and out of Guinea-Bissau are the use of propeller planes and jets. Though landing planes into weakly monitored areas may sound simple, the method is often logistically complex. Behind each shipment typically lays an intricate fabric of aircraft purchases, aircraft registries, companies, financiers, fake business deals to conceal the reasons for travel and cargo, complicit licensed pilots and crew, and coperation of officials.
    N351SE $300k Per Trip

    In other words, a number of entities and individuals from multiple criminal networks operating in several countries and jurisdictions are involved in each flight that lands or departs from Guinea-Bissau. For instance, on July 12, 2008, a Gulfstream II jet landed at Osvaldo Vieira International Airport in Bissau from Venezuela. The jet parked at a military hangar and was unloaded. Customs was prevented from searching the plane, and eventually it departed. Engine trouble forced the jet to return, after which members of the Guinea-Bissau Judicial Police seized the aircraft, which still contained small amounts of cocaine. With the assistance of international investigators, it was concluded that it had transported 500-600 kilograms of drugs. The pilot and crew were arrested along with several collaborating police officers and air traffic controllers.
    Carmelo Vasquez Guerra

    As it turned out, the pilot was Carmelo Vasquez Guerra, a Venezuelan allegedly linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel and wanted in connection with the landing of a DC-9 airplane in Mexico in 2006 that had transported 5 tons of cocaine from Venezuela. His brother and several other individuals were arrested in the 2006 incident.

    Not long after his arrest in Bissau, however, a judge ordered Guerra to be released, ruling that his provisional detention had expired. He soon disappeared but was again arrested for drug trafficking in Venezuela in 2011. Meanwhile, evidence seized from the Gulfstream jet that Guerra had flown to Bissau mysteriously disappeared just several days after the aircraft was seized. No case was ever advanced, and the plane remains abandoned on the airport tarmac in Bissau.

    Like its pilot, the Gulfstream jet also held an interesting history. The aircraft was registered as N351SE in January 2008 by a corporation named LB Aviation Inc. with an address in Yorklyn, Delaware in the United States. The address of incorporation is a house in a remote wooded area off a small country road and shared by a law firm named Whittington and Aulgur. The plane was likely never in Delaware but located at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida, where it was photographed in
    February, March, and May of 2008 before reappearing in Bissau in July.

    As it happened, LB Aviation Inc. was registered to a Luis Bustamante in Fort Lauderdale for just
    12 months, from September 2007 (a few months prior to when N351SE was certified in January 2008) to September 2008 (roughly 2 months after N351SE was seized in Bissau). While stranded in Bissau due to engine problems, another plane arrived from Dakar to repair the Gulfstream and take it to Senegal. This repair crew and rescue plane were under the employ of Africa Air Assistance, a business based in Senegal that had also been named as an owner of the infamous 727 jet that would later be found abandoned in northern Mali after delivering several tons of cocaine to traffickers in the Sahelian desert.
    Africa Air Assistance Cocaine Jet Mali

    Planes owned by Africa Air Assistance or its proprietors have been photographed in West Africa, Portugal, Spain, and France. According to Bissau-Guinean blog reports, one plane was sighted making a mysterious landing at a military airport in Bissau in October 2012. Similar circumstances suggest this is a recurring business model in the region.

    In January 2011, a plane carrying 944 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Barcelona, Spain along with its crew of three Argentines, all of whom were sons of former brigadier generals in the Argentine armed forces. The Challenger 604 aircraft had departed from a small airport outside Buenos Aires but landed in Amílcar Cabral International Airport in Cape Verde before reaching Spain. Cape Verde is a close neighbour of Guinea-Bissau, and the two actually comprised one state until 1981.

    The Challenger would be unable to make a transatlantic flight without refuelling, hence the stop in Cape Verde, but there was also some media speculation, denied by Cape Verdean officials, that drugs may have been loaded or unloaded in Cape Verde. The Challenger 604 had a U.S. registration number, N600AM. It was owned by 604 Jet LLC since November 2006,and prior to that by Secure Aviation LLC, both incorporated in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It had made previous trips to Malaga (Spain), Tel Aviv, and London. Secure Aviation LLC shares the same address and management as 604 Jet LLC, according to corporate registry documents.
     Gustavo y Eduardo Juliá, y Gastón Miret Flew in From Africa with 900kg of Cocaine

    Meanwhile, court documents from the proceedings against the three Argentines reportedly indicated that they may have had connections to Colombian drug traffickers and had made multiple visits to Bolivia and Spain prior to their arrest. Two of the three were ultimately convicted in January 2013 sentenced to 13 years.

    While it is often lamented that little can be done about drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau given how weak and compromised the country’s leadership is, the trade through the country is actually only one part of a more complex trail of individuals and activities, whether in neighbouring African states, Latin American countries, Europe, or the United States. other states—has a benign effect on the transited country.

    The assassinations of Vieira and Na Wai in March 2009 were assumed to be linked in part to disputes over narcotics trafficking. In April 2010, General Indjai, then deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, detained his superior and other senior officers, effectively promoting himself to head of the military. Soon after, he reinstated Rear Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto to his position as head of the navy, despite the fact that Na Tchuto was an internationally sanctioned drug trafficker and had fled the country in 2008 pending charges of coup plotting.

    These erstwhile partners, however, had their own falling out almost 2 years later. Troops loyal to Indjai and Na Tchuto fought gun battles on the streets of the capital on December 26, 2011. Na Tchuto was eventually arrested and charged (again) with attempting a coup d’état. However, the entire incident may have been a dispute over shipments of cocaine, suggesting the rising potency of narco disputes within the worsening fragmentation of the armed forces. In another volte-face, Na Tchuto once again was released from detention in May 2012. There were subsequent reports that he may have been promoted to a Vice Admiral and was on track to be reinstated as head of the navy until his arrest by U.S. authorities in April 2013.

    Moreover, trafficking in high-value narcotics has grown in many of Guinea-Bissau’s neighbours. Cocaine has been seized in large quantities in Senegal, and regional traffickers have used the country as a base. A bank in The Gambia was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2011 for its linkages to a West African drug-trafficking and money-laundering network operated by Hezbollah.

    Several large seizures of cocaine have occurred in Sierra Leone, including an incident in 2008 that implicated the Minister of Transportation and led to his dismissal. Never indicted, he was rehired as a special advisor to the President not long after and became Minister of Political and Public Affairs in 2013. The nature of narcotics trafficking in Africa also continues to evolve. There have been multiple incidents not only of cocaine but also heroin trafficking in Ghana.

    Large quantities of chemicals used to manufacture amphetamines have been seized in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. One trafficking network detained in 2010 in Liberia was surreptitiously recorded by U.S. law enforcement informants trying to convince Liberia’s senior intelligence officials to establish a drug laboratory to manufacture amphetamines for sale in the United States and Japan. Since July 2011, five sophisticated amphetamine laboratories have been discovered in Nigeria.
    Konstantin Yaroshenko Got 20 Years for 4000kg Shipment into Liberia

    Amphetamines often sell at a much higher wholesale price than cocaine or heroin, netting higher profits for criminal groups. This, in turn, could usher in a whole new era of narcotics-driven destabilizing effects in Africa. These changes signify how the international drug trade in Africa continues to deepen, evolve, and grow. It was only in 2006-2007 that alarms were first raised over
    Latin American cartels exploiting West Africa’s weak states to tranship cocaine to Europe.

    By 2012, substantial shipments of cocaine from South America were flowing into West Africa, heroin from South Asia was being trafficked through East Africa, and amphetamines were being manufactured on the continent for sale in East and Southeast Asia.

    This is a common feature of narcotics trafficking. While the drug trade conjures images of the violence that has for years plagued Mexico or Colombia, this is more often the reflection of a late stage in the evolutionary process of narco-states. Trafficking usually commences unnoticed, as traffickers coopt critically placed individuals or institutions to facilitate their clandestine activities.
    Super Methamphetamine Lab Set Up By Mexican Cartel In Nigeria

    This leads to a gradual weakening of state institutions from within. Over time, the police, the judiciary, the military, and the political process as a whole can be subverted by high levels of drug-fuelled corruption. Likewise, the drug trade feeds pre-existing drivers of instability within a transhipment country.

    As the trade grows, the state becomes weaker. Meanwhile, inter-elite competition accelerates, as does political violence, corruption, and gang or militia activity. In some countries, trafficking grows to the point where corruption and cooptation no longer suffice in a high stakes trade for what are ultimately limited resources involving numerous actors and groups. Instead, intimidation and violence are used to protect or grow the drug trade in such mature drug trafficking environments.

    Guinea-Bissau’s experience with drug trafficking should be a warning to the rest of Africa. While no other African country has yet exhibited the same level of drug-fuelled disputes, governance setbacks, or general instability, the continuing spread and evolution of drug trafficking and manufacturing in Africa raises the distinct possibility that other countries on the continent face a fate not dissimilar to Guinea-Bissau’s.

    The country’s difficulties should be a clear example that drug trafficking, even transhipment between supplier and user countries, has significant consequences and that prevention is critical since reversing such trends is enormously difficult and often requires years of work with substantial international support. Intervening to stabilize Guinea-Bissau, thus, should be viewed as a
    first essential step toward stemming a growing and complex problem across Africa.