Cocaine trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire: Raid on the Port of Abidjan

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on Thursday, 17 November 2022 12:44
The autonomous Port of Abidjan in March 2019. ©ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP

A €38 million cocaine haul from 2021 was hidden by corrupt police officers at Cote d'Ivoire's Port of Abidjan... and then resold. How did this happen?

Did the gendarmerie commander in charge of the anti-drug unit at the port of Abidjan conceal part of a large cocaine seizure made in 2021? This is what Ivorian investigators suspect.

The commander was arrested at the end of August and placed in provisional detention at the Abidjan prison (MACA). His arrest was followed by those of several other gendarmes, who were heard by the investigating judge on 14 November.

The seizure in question dates back to 24-25 February 2021. At the time, the authorities communicated extensively on the case, given the quantity of drugs found at the suspect’s home: 1,056 blocks of cocaine worth 25 billion CFA francs (about €38 million euros).

‘Transformed, cocaine can be worth three times as much’

The confiscated cocaine was then presented to the press at the premises of the port security group. According to a gendarmerie press release, it was by exploiting a tip-off that members of the port’s anti-drug unit – whose area of operations extends to the south of Abidjan – got hold of two individuals in Zone 4 who led them to the merchandise, which had come from Latin America and was stored at a home in Angré.

The destruction operation was filmed, in the presence of public prosecutor Richard Adou, senior commander of the national gendarmerie Alexandre Apalo Touré and secretary general of Abidjan prefecture André Martin Kakou, alongside several officers from the national gendarmerie. “Transformed, [cocaine] can be worth double or triple”, said Richard Adou. “This means that it can arouse appetites. And it is dangerous for those of us who are holding on to it. It was therefore necessary to destroy it as soon as possible, in full public view.”

8 billion CFA francs of hidden drugs

The value of hidden drugs intended for retail sale is estimated at nearly 8 billion CFA francs (around €12 million). Another gendarme working in Abidjan’s Plateau business district is also allegedly involved. At this stage of the investigation, no link has been established between this instance and a high-profile case from last April: the dismantling of a vast drug network involving important businessmen and several international traffickers.

Aware of the gaps in its network, the Ivorian gendarmerie is considering a vast reorganisation of all its leading services in the fight against drugs. Côte d’Ivoire is now considered an increasingly important transit point for trafficking between Latin America and Europe.

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