UNODC Warns of Cocaine Trafficking Threat in West Africa

NEW YORK, 12 December 2007 (UNODC) - In an address to the United Nations Security Council today, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, gave evidence of the threat that cocaine trafficking is posing to stability and development in West Africa.

Citing a report issued this week by UNODC on Cocaine Trafficking in West Africa: the threat to stability and development (which is available on the UNODC website), Mr. Costa warned that West Africa has become a hub for cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe. Some 33 tons of cocaine have been seized in West Africa since 2005, but this is probably only the tip of the iceberg. UNODC estimates that around 40 tons of cocaine were trafficked through West Africa this year alone. A quarter of all cocaine consumed in Europe now transits West Africa for a wholesale value (in West Africa) of about $1.8 billion, and a retail value of up to ten times that much on Europe's streets.

This onslaught is due to more effective interdiction along traditional trafficking routes, the convenient location of West Africa between Andean cocaine suppliers and European consumers, but most of all the vulnerability of West African countries to organized crime.

In Guinea-Bissau alone, the value of the drugs trade is greater than the entire national income. Mr. Costa, who recently visited Guinea-Bissau, warned that "drug money is perverting the economy and rotting society. Using threats and bribes, drug traffickers are infiltrating state structures and operating with impunity". He alerted the Security Council that "Guinea-Bissau has lost control of its territory and can not administer justice". The police and justice system are completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with the threat posed by foreign criminal groups colluding with powerful local allies.

While development assistance is crucial to reduce the country's vulnerability to drugs and crime, Mr. Costa called for urgent short-term assistance to prevent the country from collapsing. UNODC, together with the government of Guinea-Bissau, has drawn up an operational plan to combat drug trafficking in the region. It calls for $19 million worth of international assistance to provide expertise, equipment and training to help Guinea-Bissau patrol its borders, destroy drug consignments, block money laundering, and arrest traffickers. It also calls for the establishment of specialized units within the Judiciary Police and urgent steps to strengthen administration of justice. Mr. Costa told Members of the Security Council that "a few basic measures, like a financial intelligence unit, an anti-corruption agency, a modern prison and better trained (and paid) judges could have a major impact". UNODC will be seeking support for the operational plan at a pledging conference in Lisbon on 19 December.

The head of UNODC appealed to Member States "not to abandon Guinea-Bissau".

The full text of the UNODC report is available at www.unodc.org.

For further information contact

Walter Kemp
Communications Officer
Telephone +43 1 26060 5629
Mobile +43 699 1459 5629
E-mail: walter.kemp@unodc.org

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