Cablegate: Gog Not Doing Enough to Combat Narcotics
DE RUEHAR #2140/01 2821325
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FM AMEMBASSY ACCRA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5476
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ACCRA 002140
DEPT FOR AF/W AND INL
EO 12958 DECL: 10/04/2017
TAGS PGOV, SNAR, PINR, PREL, GH
SUBJECT: GOG NOT DOING ENOUGH TO COMBAT NARCOTICS
REF: REF: A) 2005 ACCRA 2517 B) ACCRA 1437
Classified By: AMBASSADOR PAMELA E. BRIDGEWATER FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Recent discussions with Ghanaian officials and Western diplomats paint a disappointing picture of the Ghanaian Government,s efforts to combat its increasing problem with illegal narcotics trafficking. Several GOG officials and others question whether Ghana,s leadership appreciates the magnitude of the problem and whether they have the will and/or resources to address the problem. The Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) appears to have little clear direction or initiative, and one NACOB official told us he suspects some drug &barons8 have penetrated NACOB. The British Government is considering ending its successful Operation Westbridge project at the Accra,s international airport due to dissatisfaction with GOG efforts. The apparently high level of corruption or ineptitude at the airport was demonstrated in July, when UK officials found packets of cocaine taped under passenger seats on a KLM flight before passengers boarded the plane. The situation has generated substantial frustration among officials working to combat trafficking, and as one GOG official told us, the GOG must &wake up8 soon to the narcotics trade before it is too late. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) Recent conversations with the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Ghana Police, and diplomats have revealed little confidence in NACOB and GOG efforts to battle the flow of narcotics. Without exception, each indifidual with whom we spoke said the problem was increasing and that the GOG is largely clueless as to how to combat it. Some sources cited a lack of political will, while others said that the GOG fails to understand the magnitude of the crisis. All sources agreed that if the present trend continues, Ghana would likely see a corresponding rise in crime and drug abuse present in most transit countries.
NACOB: NOT ACTIVELY COMBATING NARCOTICS
3. (C) NACOB, according to one of its higher-ranking officials, is motionless. This official XXXXXXXXsaid that the GOG has effectively neutered NACOB since the embarrassing arrest in the U.S. of NPP MP Eric Amoateng in 2005 (ref A). All of the high-ranking officials during that time have been removed XXXXXXXX. He said the GOG was upset with NACOB since it cooperated closely with the USG on the case, which resulted in Amoateng,s guilty plea and subsequent imprisonment in the U.S. He added that no one at NACOB wants to rock the boat, including the new director, Ben Botwe, who lacks experience with narcotics enforcement.
4. (C) The current deputy at NACOB, Mark Ewuntomaah, is also a problem, according to Gary Nicholls, Second Secretary at the British Embassy, and we agree. According to Nicholls, Secretary to the President, Ambassador D.K. Osei, had
SIPDIS commented that Ewuntomaah should have stayed a retired police officer rather than being recalled to NACOB. Our experience also underlines Ewuntomaah,s apparent unresponsiveness and generally incompetence. Despite repeated promises, Ewuntomaah was unable to even organize a tour of the airport for poloff.
5. (S) While there has also been a long absence of an Operations Chief at NACOB, Post learned recently that the GOG has designated an official for this position, but he is being sent to Germany for language training to take a course on combating narcotics. He is not expected to begin work for six more months. Nicholls noted that the UK no longer shares intelligence with NACOB, but rather deals directly with the Ghana Police.
6. (C) The NACOB official expects the GOG to do little to combat narcotics until after the 2008 presidential elections. The current policy, he said, is to go after couriers, but not the &barons8 who are behind the deals. The official claimed the &barons8 are generally large supporters of the NPP and he suggested that the ruling party has no plans to pursue these individuals even though many of their identities are known. He even suggested that some of the &barons8 have penetrated NACOB by recruiting NACOB officers to keep them informed. He also said that the British, with &Operation Westbridge8 at the Accra Airport,
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are the only real forces attempting to apprehend smugglers.
7. (C) Leadership at NACOB is clearly lacking. Everyone Emboffs spoke with concerning Ben Botwe, the current head of NACOB, had little positive to say. He has spoken frequently about awareness programs, and his comments have changed little since our first meeting with him in June (ref B). In a recent conversation with poloff, he suggested he is &ready to move on.8 He has made similar comments to our British colleagues and the senior official at NACOB confirmed these sentiments. Despite his apparent desire to leave, it appears that Botwe will remain for at least another year since he was asked by the President to assume this role.
POLITICAL WILL: IS IT THERE?
8. (S) In a separate conversation, XXXXXXXX , questioned whether the GOG leadership has the political will and human and financial capital to combat the drug trade. He said the GOG must &wake up8 and recognize the severity of the problem. He also said he has repeatedly warned GOG officials of the ever-increasing narcotics flow but said they do not listen. The politicians, he said, do not realize the level of violence and crime that will occur should the drug trade continue to increase. He also noted that the GOG is creating a new unit to focus on the drug trade.
9. (C) Gary Nicholls echoed concerns about the lack of political will, and said the UK is considering ending its successful Operation Westbridge project at Kotoka International Airport. Nicholls said the UK is upset about Ghana,s management of the program. One problem, he said, is that NACOB has removed the UK trained NACOB officers from the airport and replaced them with untrained officers who lack basic counter-narcotics skills. More troubling, Nicholls said, is that when the Westbridge team is outside Ghana (it travels in and out from London) no seizures are made in Accra; however seizures increase markedly in London. He provided us with a spreadsheet showing seizures through the program, and pointed out that no seizures had occurred in Accra since July 25, the day the team left Accra. However, 29 seizures were made in London through September 17. Nicholls also pointed out an egregious mistake by the monitors in which NACOB officials &missed8 a two-ton shipment of cannabis, which, according to Nicholls, is nearly impossible to not see. Nicholls said UK officials have decided to put out the message via the Ghanaian media that it is dissatisfied with the program. (NOTE: One article has already appeared in the Daily Chronicle. END NOTE)
10. (C) The statistics from Operation Westbridge are quite striking. The ages of arrestees range from 16 to 55 and hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, the Netherlands, the UK and New Zealand. Many carriers swallow pellets and one Ghanaian died in July when a pellet burst. Others have attempted to conceal narcotics in herbal tea, pictures, hair gel, or suitcases. Perhaps most disturbing, Westbridge officials found, before passengers boarded the plane, 1.8 kg of cocaine taped under passenger seats on a KLM flight. Seizures seem to occur daily when the Westbridge team is present. In total, since November 2006, the operation has netted 350 kg of cocaine, nearly 2,200 kg of cannabis, and 1.3 kg of heroin with a total street value of over USD 120,000.
11. (C) Many Ghanaians and nearly all Western Diplomats agree that the narcotics flow will increase without greater efforts to stem it. Several western Embassies have assigned officials to assist the GOG: the French have a full time Police Liaison, the Germans are sending one soon, and the Spanish Ambassador said his mission is also paying close attention to the matter, adding that Spain plans to open Embassies in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to monitor narcotics and immigration.
12. (C) The narcotics menace, if left unchecked, will definitely damage Ghana,s international credibility and its economic and political gains. We know the problem is critical when the Secretary to the President says that there is no one he can trust in law enforcement to share sensitive narcotics
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intelligence with. BRIDGEWATER