Cablegate: Sierra Leone Narcotics Wrap-Up, 2009

DE RUEHFN #0462/01 3341905
R 301905Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2019


Classified By: Political/Economic Officer Amy LeMar for reasons 1.4 (b/

1. (C) Summary: Sierra Leone continues to stay invested in
the narcotics issue, and attempting to become more pro-active
operationally despite resource constraints. International
actors, including post, UK/SOCA, and the UN remain sources of
support and encouragement, while also advancing our own
strategic interests. The JDITF is experiencing some growing
pains, including integrity and security issues, but has made
some positive gains through low-level busts and increased
intelligence-gathering efforts. New information indicates
that though Sierra Leone is not a direct platform for
narcotrafficking as it was before the 07/13/2008 plane bust,
it is being used to support operations taking place in
Guinea. These activities could embolden networks to establish
or re-establish themselves here, particularly since a
high-level of vigilance, even with political will from the
executive branch, is nearly impossible to maintain in
poverty-stricken countries. This cable will highlight the
following topics: JDITF successes and setbacks; Sierra
Leonean operational priorities; and international community
involvement and intelligence. End Summary.


2. (C) The JDITF is pressing forward, focusing since the last
update (reftel A) on promoting itself for donor recognition
and support and conducting small-scale busts of cannabis
farms and Nigerian mules. The main issue that continues to
face the JDITF is its legal status, particularly vis a vis
the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and a White
Paper was drafted which will soon be presented to the
National Security Council (NSC). The White Paper outlines the
threat of transnational organized crime to Sierra Leone, and
proposes that the NSC legally mandate the formal
establishment of the JDITF, which will eventually be expanded
into a transnational organized crime unit. Under the National
Security and Central Intelligence Act (2002), the NSC can
create sub-committees it deems necessary to fulfill its
mandate without Cabinet and Parliamentary approval. While
this will not take authority away from the NDLEA, it will
give the JDITF solid legal and political legitimacy. Informed
security contacts indicate that a revised National Drugs
Control Act is expected in 2010, and could relegate the NDLEA
back to a policy unit focusing on demand-reduction,
rehabilitation, and public awareness.

3. (SBU) Regardless of the JDITF's technical status, donors
continue to show interest in supporting it thanks to their
regular outreach. The German government recently donated USD
500,000 through the UN to provide equipment and three
vehicles, and a UN assessment team visited in November to
start solidifying plans for the West African Coast Initiative
(WACI), an element of which will establish transnational
crime units in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and Cote
d'Ivoire. Should the TCU project be fully-funded, Sierra
Leone will receive approximately USD 3,000,000 over three
years. The assessment team consisted of representatives from
UNODC, Interpol. UN-DPKO, and UNOWA, who stated their intent
to focus on boosting intelligence-gathering and sharing
efforts through the Office of National Security (ONS) and the
Central Intelligence and Security Unit (CISU). There is
currently no timeline for this project. On November 30, SOCA
provided three vehicles for surveillance work, and has
requested three more. The mini-Dublin Group, chaired by the
British High Commissioner, had its second meeting in November.

4. (C) The JDITF's operational work has been hampered by
resource constraints and an ongoing struggle to maintain
integrity. The recent cannabis farm bust, "Operation Green
Hay," netted several farmers and destroyed their crops, but
some targets had been tipped off weeks prior (reftel B). The
JDITF was also responsive to three alerts of potentially
inbound, load-carrying flights in October, but leaks from the
JDITF enforcement unit made public knowledge the fact that
they had been placed on stand-by. The JDITF Management Board
and external advisors are now reconsidering how best to grade
intelligence, control access, and activate the task force's
enforcement arm, as necessary. Open information-sharing, even

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at senior JDITF levels, appears to carry significant risks:
ONS/CISU told Poloff that they will only share low-level
intelligence with their SLP counterparts on the task force,
and would only pass along "hot" information (i.e.: regarding
significant cocaine loads or wanted traffickers) if
absolutely necessary. Even in what is, by Sierra Leonean
standards, an elite squad, the cadre of SLP officers involved
below Assistant Inspector General (and JDITF Chairman) Morie
Lengor, are proving themselves to be hard to fully trust.


5. (C) The Task Force remains focused on cannabis production
as an area in which progress can be made, and recently found
small amounts of what they believe to be crack cocaine during
a routine marijuana seizure (Note: Drug identification is
unreliable here, but the amounts were too small to send to
the UK for testing. End Note.). It appears that large amounts
of cannabis are being driven over the Guinean border and sold
- one bale is equivalent to the price of an "okada"
(motorcycle), which is a lucrative deal for an unemployed
youth. Besides cannabis, the task force has also had some
success focusing on Nigerian mules through
intelligence-gathering and profiling. The SLP recently
arrested four Nigerians at Lungi Airport on suspicion of drug
trafficking: one proved to have 26 capsules of cocaine in his
stomach, while the other three were clean - they remain
detained for traveling on false Spanish documents. Officers
have finally started collecting evidence during these
incidents, including doing a check of all cell phones and
documenting numbers and contacts (Note: Post passed an
inventory of numbers from each of the suspects' phones to
DEA/Accra. End Note.). While little evidence was seized
beyond their phones and travel papers, the Sierra Leoneans
are now interested in gathering and analyzing evidence
themselves, rather than turning it over immediately to SOCA
or bagging and ignoring it. The "Nkeke" case involving 26
capsules has also resulted in the arrest of three SLP
officers assigned to Lungi: they allegedly stole 16 of the
capsules to sell on their own before turning the suspect and
remaining cocaine over to the JDITF.

6. (C) The Nigerian network, previously unexplored, will
likely create a significant amount of work for the task
force. The Nigerian High Commissioner, Godson Echegile,
reportedly pays informants to track Nigerian criminals
in-country and has information to share regarding trafficking
operations. He has allegedly been reticent to provide this
information to the SLP, which he believes to be corrupt and
ineffective, but may be willing to pass intelligence to the
UN and other diplomats: UNIPSIL has made overtures to him,
and he will likely be invited to the next mini-Dublin Group
meeting. An approach by the CDA and British High Commissioner
may also prove effective. At this point, the JDITF does not
know where the Nigerians procure the cocaine, or where in
Freetown it is packaged. We do know, though, that more
Nigerians are traveling in and out of Sierra Leone than ever
before: Immigration processed more than 400 Nigerians at
Lungi between August and October.

7. (C) Besides new leads, the July 13, 2008 case continues to
haunt the JDITF. Six individuals wanted in connection with
the case returned to Sierra Leone from Guinea in September,
including Narandas Emeric Edward Bangura, an employee of
Gibrilla Kamara (GK). Narandas reportedly returned to Sierra
Leone to re-establish GK's business and claim his frozen
assets and property. The JDITF successfully surveilled and
arrested the six men, but they were later granted bail
despite SLP protests. The magistrate, who was likely bribed,
agreed to rescind bail, but Narandas and the others had
already fled. CISU suspects that Narandas re-joined his boss
in Conakry. GK is a sore subject with Task Force members, but
intelligence suggests that he is laying low in Guinea and
will likely only return to Sierra Leone if forced to.

--------------------------------------------- ---
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (C/NF) The British are active in Sierra Leone, and attend
the Integrated Intelligence Group meetings. Besides providing
some operational support for JDITF surveillance and busts,
they are also working their own investigations. One

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individual of interest is Mohib Shamel (Sierra Leonean cell
no. 076-700-259), a Lebanese-Brit who works out of Birmingham
and visits Sierra Leone every six weeks. The Shamel family is
active in the mining sector here, and Mohib reportedly comes
to Sierra Leone to do charity work in the Kono District.
According to SOCA, however, he is connected to Daniel
Kinahan, an Irish businessman involved in narcotrafficking
throughout Europe and currently the target of a major
investigation. SOCA believes that Shamel represents Kinahan
in Sierra Leone, and that Kinahan may be interested in
expanding his network to West Africa. Shamel is reportedly in
communication with individuals who worked for/with the

9. (C/NF) On the intelligence side, SOCA has received
information that a meeting is expected to take place soon
between three Colombians, one Dutch, and one Danish
individual to discuss narco-trafficking opportunities in
Guinea. If the meeting goes well, they will reportedly travel
from Sierra Leone to Guinea: SOCA implied that the Colombians
are already active in the sub-region, and that the Europeans
are potential partners for them. While further information is
classified and cannot be shared, SOCA contact said that they
have names and numbers for the individuals, and may share
more in the coming days or weeks.

10. (C) The Spanish have a new interest in Sierra Leone,
based on a Sierra Leonean-flagged vessel that has been
involved in human smuggling and linked to narcotics
trafficking. The "Jean Marie" is a target of the Spanish
Drugs and Organized Crime Unit, which placed a transponder on
it in Dakar in 2008. Suspected of carrying loads of people
and possibly drugs between Sierra Leone/Liberia/Guinea and
the Canary Islands, it also made a trip to the Delta de
Orinoco area of Venezuela. In late 2008, it returned to
Freetown from Venezuela and the transponder subsequently died
or was removed. On November 25, the SOCA representative
positively identified the Jean Marie at a Sierra Leone
marina, following what some consider to be a lackluster CISU
search for it (Note: The Jean Marie is owned by the uncle of
CISU's Director General. Some feel he deliberately delayed
the search, while others believe it simply wasn't a priority
relative to other issues. There is no indication that the
CISU DG is corrupt. End Note). Because the Spanish don't have
a bilateral agreement with Sierra Leone to conduct
operations, they will likely prevail upon SOCA to remove, and
possibly replace, the transponder. One interesting note is
that the vessel moored directly next to the Jean Marie in
Freetown appears to be the same as the one it was
photographed next to in Senegal.


11. (C) The JDITF is struggling with expected issues, such as
limited resources and maintaining operational integrity.
While their efforts, particularly in addressing the new
Nigerian concerns, are laudable, the enforcement branch is
currently not trustworthy enough to handle sensitive
information. They can and should be a partner in any
significant initiatives, but only with the caveat that
information and plans be carefully channeled through top
leadership with controls placed on who knows what and when.
This view is shared by others in the international community,
including SOCA and the UK Advisor to ONS. The JDITF is
currently cutting its teeth on low-level cases, and until
they prove themselves ready for robust investigations, will
continue to be somewhat marginalized by Sierra Leonean
intelligence interests and others. That said, the JDITF
Management Board is aware of the issues, and seeking to
remedy them as best they can.

12. (C/NF) Comment, Con't: The Sierra Leoneans are currently
not generating information about major narcotics interests in
the country, but continue to track those linked to the
Perezes, and surveilled Shamel on SOCA's behalf. Information
about the possible meeting of Colombian and European
interests indicates that Sierra Leone is, at the very least,
seen as a "safe" location for meetings and possibly for
logistics bases. Though Guinea appears to still be the
preferred place for doing business, a change there could push
activity to Sierra Leone. While capacity has somewhat
increased to address an influx, there continues to be
significant limitations in what Sierra Leone can do. End

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