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16.12.2010 General News

U.S. Thoughts On Drugs And Politics In Ghana Leaked

By Daily Graphic
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Latest US intelligence cables intercepted by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks indicate that although Ghana became the centre of the new cocaine-transit zone in West Africa, the government seemed to focus more on small time dealers and couriers such that it did not typically carry out long-term investigations that would have resulted in the arrest of major drug traffickers.

A confidential report said to have been sent from the US Embassy on December 21, 2007 noted, for example, that the government of Ghana (GOG) contacts “in both the police Service and the President’s office have said they know the identities of the major barons, but they have not said why they have not chosen to arrest them”.

“ A Police Service contact told us the GOG does not have the political will to go after the barons. This official and others close to the President have also told us that they cannot trust anyone when it comes to narcotics,” Wikileaks quoted the US Embassy cable from its Confidential Section 03 Accra 002590.

The cable intelligence released by Wikileaks described the 2007 appointment of Mr Ben Botwe as Head of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) as a clear sign of the then government’s unwillingness to fight the drug trade.

“Botwe’s nomination appears to be one more discouraging sign of the GOG's weak counter-narcotics efforts, reinforcing our impressions from the US Ambassador's recent meeting with President Kufuor and from Police chief's recent meeting with the Attorney General (reftels), in addition to the worries of our colleagues in the Dublin Group.

“Botwe lacks experience dealing with illicit narcotics and turned to his deputy, a senior police officer, on any substantive questions. He lacks the energy or independent political standing of his predecessor, who nonetheless was unable to make much impact.

“More worrisome, according to our political assistant locally engaged staff, Botwe had a reputation at the Food and Drugs Board for being amenable to influence.”

The information cited the Executive Secretary of NACOB, Mr Yaw Akrasi Sarpong, asking, 'How $700,000 mansions could be built in the poor region adjacent to the main Ghana-Togo border crossing and how a single Nigerian woman could buy large parcels of beach front property with no one questioning the source of her funds.”

It said during a meeting with embassy political officers, Mr Sarpong 'made disparaging categorical remarks about drug connections in the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) government and the influence on politics of money derived from drug trafficking'.

He further criticised the government, saying it had 'failed so far to provide NACOB with adequate resources, and stressed that low salaries made law enforcement personnel highly vulnerable to drug traffickers'.

The Wikileaks’ documents said Mr Sarpong’s view of airport customs was particularly scathing, remarking, 'In addition to the individual mules who ingest small quantities of drugs or conceal the drugs in luggage or body cavities, airport workers have been arrested 'for passing drugs to travellers after they have completed security checks' and that drugs are smuggled out of the airport through the 'VVIP' (Very Very Important Persons) lounge”.

It said the US view was similarly critical, with the US Embassy in Accra concluding in 2009 that the Ghanaian authorities directed 'little or no effort at pursuing middle and high-level traffickers or ring leaders' and blamed 'Ghana's open business climate' for providing cover for drug trafficking rings.

It said at a London meeting, a senior British Foreign Office official on Africa, Janet Douglas, warned the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Philip Carter, that the drugs trade and other criminal activities in West Africa were 'becoming institutionalised'.

'It is important to stymie the drug trade before it destabilises the region further and before terrorists begin using it as a source of revenue,' she said.

According to the information released by Wikileaks, the West African route to the lucrative European markets had been growing in popularity for some time following successful anti-smuggling operations in the Caribbean islands.

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