Cablegate: Koroma Requests Assistance with Guinean Drug Arrest
DE RUEHFN #0406 2281408
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 151408Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2120
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
S E C R E T FREETOWN 000406
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (JJHUNTER)
EO 12958 DECL: 08/15/2018
TAGS SNAR, PREL, PGOV, SL, GV
SUBJECT: KOROMA REQUESTS ASSISTANCE WITH GUINEAN DRUG ARREST
REF: A. FREETOWN 336 B. FREETOWN 405
Classified By: CDA Glenn Fedzer for reasons 1.4(b/e)
1. (S/NF) Summary: President Koroma called the CDA to a meeting August 15 to request USG assistance to arrest a fugitive trafficker linked to last month’s seizure of 750 kilos of cocaine (reftel A) and now believed to be in Conakry. Koroma believed he could not make the request directly to the Guinean President without Conte’s inner circle tipping off the trafficker before he could be captured. President Koroma and an assistant also clarified information on the temporary detention of Conte’s “wife” at the border with nearly a million dollars in gold and currency (reftel B). End Summary.
2. (S/NF) President Koroma requested August 15 that the United States Government pressure Guinea to arrest and extradite Gibrilla Kamara, a high-level trafficker associated with the cartel behind last month’s shipment of 750 Kilos of cocaine seized in Lungi, Sierra Leone (reftel A). Koroma said they were tracking Kamara’s movements in Conakry and wanted him arrested immediately, but were constrained in their options. Koroma considered engaging President Conte on this matter, but because Conte is old, weak, and in poor health, Koroma felt word would get out through his underlings and jeopardize the capture. He felt a second, better option was to have the U.S. Government “pressure” Conte to have Guinean police apprehend Kamara and return him to Sierra Leone.
3. (S/NF) President Koroma and his personal secretary also provided new details regarding the flight of President Conte’s “wife” Zainab across the Sierra Leone-Guinea border with hundreds of thousands of dollars, Euros, as well as luxury vehicles and gold bullion. The woman was not Henriette Conte, as initially reported in reftel B, but Zainab Conte. Little seemed known about her, even to the President’s advisor, other than her first name, her Sierra Leonean roots, her relationship with Conte, and a story that she was also the mistress of a former President of Sierra Leone. She was detained at the border at 9pm on August 12, and held for approximately 12 hours. Word of her detention reached a Presidential aide, and officials deliberated at length about how to proceed. They considered the issue of diplomatic immunity (Note: It is unclear whether or not Zainab has diplomatic status. End note), as well as the potential for violence at the hands of Guinean military should she not be released. The tipping-point was a call from President Conte to President Koroma, personally requesting her release.
4. (S/NF) A presidential advisor reported that, though border officials detained Zainab and a convoy of three luxury vehicles, they waved other vehicles through, not realizing one contained the long-sought after Gibrilla Kamara (aka GK). Kamara is a prime suspect in the July 13 cocaine bust, and the only “big fish” remaining outside the net of the Sierra Leone Police. Thought to be one of the drug trafficking ring’s key facilitators, rumors abounded that he had fled to Guinea shortly after the bust. It now appears that Kamara remained in Sierra Leone with the currency and other valuables, with the intention of crossing the border under the protection of Zainab.
5. (S/NF) Comment: Given the Government of Sierra Leone’s initial hesitation to accept high-level USG assistance on the cocaine bust, it is encouraging that the President is now actively requesting help with what could be a very delicate diplomatic, political, and security issue. While the “loot” he was accompanying is likely well-hidden, arresting Kamara could be the key to identifying and capturing other Sierra Leoneans within the highest echelon of the drug trafficking syndicate. Sadly for the President, public awareness of Kamara and Zainab’s escape, especially with the loot in hand, will damage Koroma’s efforts to project an anti-corruption image for himself and his party to the people of Sierra Leone. End Comment. FEDZER