UN anti-narcotics chief hails seizure of $54 million worth of cocaine in Guinea-Bissau

UN anti-narcotics chief hails seizure of $54 million worth of cocaine in Guinea-Bissau

Antonio M. Costa
The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today lauded the Guinea-Bissau police for their seizure of 635 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated $54 million, and urged the West African country’s Government to dispose of the drugs properly.

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today lauded the Guinea-Bissau police for their seizure of 635 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated $54 million, and urged the West African country’s Government to dispose of the drugs properly.

Despite the Judiciary Police’s success in retrieving the narcotics near the capital Bissau yesterday, traffickers escaped with the rest of the 2.5-ton load because the law enforcement in Guinea-Bissau did not have the capacity to give chase.

“I commend the Judiciary Police for their bravery and resourcefulness in making this important seizure,” said Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC’s Executive Director. “It is regrettable that the rest of the consignment was not intercepted but hardly surprising as the police are woefully ill-equipped and often do not even have enough gasoline to operate their vehicles.”

Given that drugs seized by police had “disappeared” in the past, Mr. Costa called on Guinea-Bissau’s authorities to ensure that the cocaine is properly and verifiably disposed.

He noted that there is evidence that Government authorities and members of the armed forces were involved in the illicit drug trade, with police officers who attempt to curb trafficking being threatened.

“This is one of the worst forms of corruption and it must be vigorously resisted,” Mr. Costa said. “All governments have a legal obligation to fight drug trafficking and take action against corruption on their territory.”

He called on the country’s international partners to aid the police force as it endeavours to combat narcotics trafficking and also to help provide the basic tools necessary to fight the drug trade – such as cars, fuel and efficient communications systems.

“If support is not forthcoming, I fear that honest police officers could become discouraged,” he said. “This country must not be allowed to become a narco-state.”

In another development, Mr. Costa said yesterday that despite the willingness of African nations to root out corruption, much more needed to be done to tackle the problem.

He pointed out to African ministers at the Johannesburg Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity that on average, the continent was performing better than others in signing on to the UN Convention against Corruption, with 29 out of the 53 African countries ratifying the agreement.

“But that means that 24 of you have not” signed on to the treaty, of which UNODC is the custodian, said Mr. Costa. “Adhering to the Convention is becoming a leading indicator of a Government’s willingness to address corruption seriously.”

The 1995 Convention is the first to legally bind countries to fight corruption, with tough measures on asset recovery and bank secrecy. To date, 140 countries have signed it while 91 have ratified it.