AFRICA: Drug Trafficking Getting Sophisticated

July 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm Leave a comment

Drug Gangs May Be Using Submarines off West Africa

Cocaine seizures in West Africa are down, says a United Nations counter narcotics official, but that doesn’t mean authorities have won the war on drugs.

If anything, the amount of drugs passing from Latin America to Europe via West Africa is up – with an estimated value of $800 million, says Alexander Schmidt, the head of the U.N.’s regional Office on Drug Crimes.

Schmidt told a recent international gathering in Dakar, Senegal, that the drop in drug busts – down from 47 tons to 35 tons between 2008 and 2009, the BBC reportsindicates drug cartels are repositioning their trafficking routes and using more sophisticated transport means – possibly even small submarines or semi-submersible craft.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen seize a self-propelled, semi submersible craft carrying narcotics off Central America's Pacific Coast in 2009. (Coast Guard photo)

While no subs have been seized in West African waters, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting gangs may be using them there, said Schmidt, the Associated Press reports. Lightweight submarines, some constructed in the jungles of South and Central America, have been used by drug cartels to transport cocaine and other narcotics around the Caribbean and Latin American waters.

While a few hundred Latin Americans still dominate the trade in West Africa, more locals are taking control, as they did in the Mexican narcotics trade, said Schmidt. He noted that just as Mexican gangs increasingly displaced Colombian cartels in moving Andean cocaine to the United States, West Africans are taking more responsibility, according to Reuters.

International law enforcement has been concerned for years that Latin American gangs have taken advantage of weak or corrupt governments in West Africa to use the region as a transit point, first to the U.S. and now to Europe. There are also worries that al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb may be involved in the drug trade although there is no firm evidence yet, Schmidt said.

He spoke late last month at the inaugural meeting of a policy committee, the West Africa Coast Initiative, made up of U.N. officials, government ministers and Interpol representatives.

To see a video of the U.S. Coast Guard stopping a semi submersible in Latin American waters click here.

Click here to see raw AP video footage of a big  sub seized in the swamps of Ecuador (little sound, no narration).

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Entry filed under: Africa, International Crime, Latin America, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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