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Cablegate: Ghana's New Narcotics Director, Growing

VZCZCXRO8678
RR RUEHPA
DE RUEHAR #1437/01 1791741
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 281741Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ACCRA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4770
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0170
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0870
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ACCRA 001437

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

EMBASSY ROME FOR DEA RBENSON
EMBASSY BRUSSELS FOR DEA SCARANTINO

EO 12958 DECL: 06/19/2017
TAGS GH, MOPS, PGOV, PINR, PREL, SNAR
SUBJECT: GHANA’S NEW NARCOTICS DIRECTOR, GROWING
INTERNATIONAL CONCERN
REF: A. ACCRA 1275 B. ACCRA 1280
ACCRA 00001437 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: PolChief Scott Ticknor for reasons 1.4 (d) and (e).

1. (C) Summary: On June 13, Polchief and Pol FSN met with Ben Botwe, who recently took over from Major General Richardson Baiden as the Acting Executive Director of Ghana’s Narcotics Control Board (NCB). Botwe is preparing a budget for urgent funding priorities and wants to build a stronger relationship with the police. He lacks security or law enforcement experience and we question whether he has the political weight or support to make an impact in his new job. The British continue to be very discouraged by the narcotics situation in Ghana. Other governments share these concerns and the Mini-Dublin group of donors plans to write to the Minister of Interior urging more effective action against narcotics trafficking. End summary.

Meeting the New Man at NCB
--------------------------

2. (SBU) Botwe, who only started two weeks ago, said he plans to create a three-year strategic plan for counternarcotics. Asked about the dimension of the narcotics concern, he said “shipments are happening,” although he was not sure why they are coming to Ghana. He wants to establish SOPs for handling relations with other government agencies and to strengthen Human Resources management. He saw the need to strengthen existing programs, rebuild internal structures, and work with the media on an anti-drug campaign.

3. (SBU) In the short-term, he will prepare an “immediate needs budget” for the Minister of Interior, who he claims has assured him additional resources. NCB has just graduated 35 new recruits as core field staff but needs additional vehicles and equipment. Botwe said the GOG has approved 60 more new recruits before the end of 2007. He hopes to work with local authorities to strengthen air and sea interdiction as well as intelligence gathering. Equipping the navy to do a better job in counternarcotics is a high priority, he said.

4. (SBU) Botwe hoped to strengthen the NCB’s relationship with the
Ghana Police Service and opined that the recent dismissal of over 80 police officers suspected of narcotics offenses is a healthy “purging” of the police system. He thought the NCB should take the lead in narcotics intelligence gathering, monitoring, coordination and reporting, providing overall direction for counternarcotics while also helping other agencies with expertise and capacity building. The NCB should participate in operations but it has no prosecutorial or arrest authority and its agents are unarmed, he said, lamenting that in the past the NCB had taken on too many police duties. This had created tension with the police, reducing the GOG’s ability to conduct sustained raids, he said.

Brief Bio
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5. (U) Benjamin Kwame Botwe (47) was the Chief Regulatory Officer and Deputy Chief Executive (Drugs Division) of the Food and Drugs Board from 2000-2007. Starting in 1988, he held different jobs at the Food and Drugs Board, including three years (1997-2000) as Principal Enforcement Officer. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and a Masters of Science (Pharmaceutical Analysis) in Quality and Management.

Other Government Views of Narcotics in Ghana
--------------------------------------------

6. (C) The British remain very concerned about narcotics trends in
Ghana. A British Embassy official provided PolChief with data from Operation Westbridge, a U.K.-supported program to strengthen narcotics interdiction at Accra’s airport. He reported that in the seven months since the start of this Operation at the end of November, 2006 the UK had made 51 seizures of narcotics originating
ACCRA 00001437 002.2 OF 002
from Ghana, totaling 197.5 kilograms of cocaine, 713 kilograms of cannabis and 300 grams of heroin. Operation Westbridge is ongoing but will now shift from screening passengers to also screening freight. Lagos-based British Serious Organized Crime (SOCA) Officer John King recently met PolChief after several days of discussions with counternarotics contacts in Accra, including the Ministers of Interior and National Security. King told PolChief that the U.K. recently shared intelligence with the GOG on a vessel coming to Ghana from South America suspected to be carrying cocaine. King said a vessel left from Tema to provide the suspect ship with fuel and water. According to King, however, the Ghana navy failed to find it and may not have even tried (although it is not clear to us that the navy received the U.K. information). King found Minister of Interior Kan-Dapaah dismissive and irritated when King raised problems with narcotics at the airport. King concluded that the GOG was more indifferent to the narcotics issue than in 2006 and had made little progress to tackle this problem in the past year.

7. (C) These concerns were mirrored in a June 25 Mini-Dublin Group meeting, the second such narcotics cooperation meeting held in Accra, hosted by the French Embassy and attended by diplomats from the U.S., Dutch, Spanish, Italian, British, and German Embassies. The French DCM told the group that two weeks ago a French naval vessel intercepted a ship loaded with cocaine coming to Ghana from South America. Given concerns about narcotics trafficking here, a French narcotics liaison officer will be assigned to Ghana starting in September, she said. The German official noted that Lufthansa is seeing small but increasing quantities of narcotics trafficking on its flights out of Ghana. The Germans are also exploring assigning a permanent narcotics liaison officer to Accra. The Italian rep said their Dakar-based narcotics watcher is reporting a large increase of narcotics trafficking from South America through West Africa. The group agreed to send a joint letter to the Minister of Interior expressing growing concerns about Ghana’s narcotics situation.

Comment
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8. (C) Botwe hopes he can apply to the NCB his experience combating counterfeit drugs at the Food and Drugs Board. His approach is bureaucratic, focused on structures, plans and institutional arrangements. He brings to the job managerial and some drug-related experience. This may be helpful in rebuilding the NCB if he has the resources and political will to back him. As recently as June 19, Minister of Interior Albert Kan-Dapaah publicly asserted that “restructuring and strengthening the NCB, particularly its human resource capacity, is one of the key issues the government has decided to implement.” He reportedly told a recent Heads of Mission meeting that he was very concerned about Ghana’s growing narcotics problem and its potential impact on Ghanaian politics. The additional NCB recruits and Botwe’s desire to strengthen coordination with the police are positive developments.

9. (C) While these are still early days for Botwe, his nomination appears to be one more discouraging sign of the GOG’s weak counternarcotics efforts, reinforcing our impressions from the Ambassador’s recent meeting with President Kufuor and from PolChief’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. BRIDGEWATER

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