Corruption hinders efforts to stem trafficking through Ghana

A British operation to stem the flow of cocaine through Ghana has been beset by corruption, with local drug police sabotaging expensive scanning equipment and tipping off smugglers to avoid detection, leaked United States (US) embassy cables reveal.

Ghana’s President John Atta Mills even worried that his own entourage may be smuggling drugs through his presidential lounge at Accra’s Kotoka airport and asked a senior British customs official in November 2009 for help to screen them “in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs”, according to the US embassy in Accra.

The request reveals a deep crisis in the bilateral operation against wholesale drug trafficking into the United Kingdom (UK) through an airport that has become one of the main transit hubs for South American drug cartels after the authorities successfully blocked routes from the Caribbean.

The United Nations has estimated that up to 60 tonnes of cocaine are smuggled through West Africa, mostly into Europe, each year. According to the cables, the Ghanaian narcotics control board officers working with British officials:

  • Actively helped traffickers, even calling the criminals on their cellphones to tell them when to travel to avoid detection
  • Sabotaged sensitive drug scanners provided to the Ghanaian government; and
  • Channelled passengers, including pastors and bank managers and their wives, into the security-exempt VVIP lounge, despite suspicions they were trafficking drugs.

Smuggling has become so blatant that on one flight last year two traffickers vomited drugs they had swallowed and subsequently died, while parcels of cocaine were found taped under the seats of a KLM plane even before boarding.


President Mills had publicly pledged to crack down on wholesale drug trafficking into the UK via the airport and won the presidency on an anti-drugs platform. But in June 2009 he told the US ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, “elements of his government are already compromised and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there”.

Embassy contacts in the police service and the president’s office “have said they know the identities of the major barons,” but “the government of Ghana does not have the political will to go after [them]”, a December 2007 cable said.

The cable concluded: “The government of Ghana does not provide the resources necessary to address the problem and, at times, does not appear to have the political will to go after the major drug barons.” —

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Excess deaths increase but we are ‘still in the dark’

The data shows 17 000 more people have died than usual since May, but only 6 000 deaths have officially been attributed to Covid-19

A fishy business: How an Icelandic multinational moved profits out of Namibia

Global food companies avoid paying taxes by shifting profits around the world. Finance Uncovered reports on the case of Icelandic fishing giant Samherji’s operations in Namibia

The orchestrators of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen

As the crisis continues to unfold, the biggest threat may be the vested interest in maintaining the civil war Therefore, with no end in sight to the conflict plaguing the nation, the question worth asking is: who benefits from a Yemen at war?

Revolutionaries turn to healthcare

After ousting a dictator, members of Sudan’s resistance committees are now helping to fight the Covid-19 pandemic

How Mauritius beat the pandemic

Despite containing Covid-19, it will be some time before normal life resumes — and some measures will be written into the law

Rehumanising Diego Maradona

In two recent documentaries, we finally get up close to the complicated sadness of Argentina’s original football deity
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday