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Cablegate: Surge in Malian Drug Busts

VZCZCXRO1089
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #1404/01 3471542
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131542Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8503
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAMAKO 001404

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR ETRD ECON ML
SUBJECT: SURGE IN MALIAN DRUG BUSTS

1. SUMMARY: A large recent number of significant drug
seizures despite no appreciable resource increase to the
woefully underfunded and undermanned Anti-Drug Brigade points
to a rapid increase in drug-trafficking through Mali. Many
of the drug-traffickers detained were Nigerians traveling to
Europe. The technical training and high-tech equipment that
might aid authorities do not exist in Mali, forcing police to
rely mostly on informants to identify traffickers. Cocaine
is believed to originate in South America with a final
destination of Europe, while marijuana is destined for local
consumption. End Summary.

2. Malian Customs seized 35kg of cocaine, with a street
value of over USD 2 million, at the Guinean border the
morning of November 21, the largest seizure of cocaine ever
in Mali. Implicated in the crime were Chini Julien Koffi, a
Togolese, and Kennedy N'Didi, a Nigerian (passport and bio
information at paragraph 5). When at the border crossing to
fill out the necessary paperwork to allow them to travel to
Bamako as tourists, Mr. Koffi told officials he was a
professional driver, but indicated in the paperwork that he
was actually a car painter. Officials were also suspicious
that Mr. Koffi had crossed the border four other times since
May 2007. Although Mr. Koffi declared he only had "personal
items" in the car, a search revealed 35 small packets of
cocaine in black plastic bags hidden throughout the vehicle.
According to Mr. Koffi, each packet of cocaine had a resale
value of around USD 60,000. Police also found 18 kg of
marijuana, and a subsequent body search revealed 4,700 Euros
and 1,123,500 Guinean Francs on Mr. Koffi. The two suspected
drug traffickers are now in jail in southern Mali awaiting
trial. Inspector Daba Coulibaly at the Anti-Drug Brigade
noted that the seized cocaine has not yet been transported to
Bamako for destruction, as there is no precedent for a
seizure this large outside the capital city and current laws
are unclear on the required time frame for drug disposals.

3. The November incident is just one of many drug seizures
in the last several months:

--On October 3, 948 kg of marijuana was seized outside of
Koutiala, a town in southern Mali near the Burkinabe border.
One of the suspected drug dealers was arrested while his
accomplice was able to escape. A drug commission witnessed
the destruction of the drugs on November 7.

--Acting on a tip from an informant, the police apprehended
two Nigerian drug-trafficking suspects with 1.3 metric tons
of marijuana in a central market area of Bamako on December
4. The drugs were hidden among 10 sacks of tamarind plant
leaves.

--At the end of November, 48 kg of marijuana, again hidden in
sacks of tamarind leaves, was seized on the train from Dakar
to Bamako.

--On December 6, police seized 1.2 kg of cocaine valued at
USD 60,000 from Auguste Ejike Charles, a Nigerian traveling
on the Malian airline CAM-Mali to Cotonou. Director of the
Border Police, Djibril Diarra, reported that agents found the
drugs during a routine control procedure when they noticed
that Mr. Charles' shoes were abnormally heavy. Further
investigation revealed small sacks of cocaine in the soles of
his shoes. Charles said that the cocaine came from
Guinea-Conakry and was destined for Lagos. Mr. Charles
admitted that this was his second time to travel through Mali
with drugs although the first time, he traveled by road from
Guinea-Conakry. He added that his supplier is Vitus, a
Sierra Leonean living in Guinea-Conakry who delivers the
drugs to "Le Malador" hotel in Conakry.

--On December 7, another Nigerian named Joel Christopher was
apprehended with an unreported amount of cocaine at the
Bamako airport. Christopher's flight was also on the
CAM-Mali airline going to Amsterdam via Tripoli. The border
agents conducted a urine test after they noted the Nigerian
acting suspiciously. The test indicated that he had
swallowed packets of the drug. Christopher was handed over
to the Anti-Drug Brigade. (Note: Since the end of 2006,
police have used urine tests with success to detect cocaine
hidden in traffickers stomachs.)

4. COMMENT: The upswing in arrests cannot be attributed to
any changes to the staffing, training, or technology
available to local law enforcement, as the Anti-Drug Brigade
remains woefully understaffed and without the necessary
equipment to detect illegal substances. The increase in the
amount of drug trafficked through in Mali is alarming given
that number of people arrested is likely only a fraction of
traffickers passing through the country, and Mali's border
and narcotics control weaknesses may turn Bamako into a hub
for cocaine shipments to Europe. END COMMENT


BAMAKO 00001404 002 OF 002


5. As reported in the local papers, details of the two
apprehended suspects are as follows:
Name: Chini Julien Koffi
Togolese passport number 13359/03CP3D from 12/16/2003
Birthday: February 12, 1970
Place of birth: Kouve, Togo
Parents: Chini Omedgrovi Gabriel and Azougou Massan
Profession: car painter
Domicile: Lome

Kennedy N'Didi did not have an identification card but said
that he was born April 15, 1967 in M'Gbo in Nigeria, son of
Godwin and Elisabeth N'Didi Aka. He is a businessperson by
profession and has been living in Bamako the last several
years.
McCulley

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