Saturday, March 14, 2009

80 percent of Guineans in uniform 'living off drug money'

Editor's note: Reprinted with permission from Friends of Guinea blog


Guinea-Bissau, where the president and army chief were recently assassinated, has often been described as Africa's first narcostate. There are increasing fears that neighboring Guinea is becoming the second.

Last month, several senior police officials along with the son of the late Gen. Lansana Conté were arrested on allegations of collaboration with South American cocaine cartels.

This Associated Press article shares details of Ousmane Conté's confession and the troubling admissions contained therein.

A junior police officer claimed "Eighty percent of the men in uniform lived off of" drug money.

Some snipets from the AP piece:

When planes loaded with cocaine arrived, Guinea's presidential guard secured the cargo. Drug deals were conducted inside the first lady's private residence and in the president's VIP salon at the airport. To avoid detection, cocaine was sent to Europe in the country's diplomatic pouch.


[...]

The confessions [of Ousmane Conté and other former top officials] paint a picture of an illicit trade conducted with total impunity, with the help of officials, members of the president's family and security forces. They also show the large role Guinea and other West African countries are playing as drug hubs, and how vulnerable they are to the corrupting influence of drug dollars.

[...]

The inner circle of former dictator Lansana Conté, who ruled Guinea for 24 years until his death, was deeply corrupt, with officials driving opulent SUVs in a capital where most people live without electricity.

[...]

In a jailhouse interview this week with The Associated Press, [Ousmane] Conté explained how he did it. He said a friend brought in "medicine" for his humanitarian foundation, using a Red Cross plane that landed at night at the international airport in the capital, Conakry. When the plane arrived, his friend called to wake him. Conté then went to the airport accompanied by the presidential guard to secure the cargo, he said.

Conté claimed he did not know at first that the cargo contained cocaine. But his friend later told him, he said, and Conte accepted a $300,000 bribe.

[...]

The late president's brother-in-law said he met with Latin American drug dealers inside a villa owned by his sister, the former first lady. The head of the country's intelligence unit said he personally accompanied a convoy of trucks containing drugs to the capital. The former head of the police force was challenged to account for the source of funds for a university he is building.

Even the former head of the country's anti-drug unit was interrogated on state TV for his alleged role. The unit was in charge of seizing drugs when a cache was found. But instead of securing and destroying the drugs, the cocaine was often "recycled," said top police officials and foreign diplomats.

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