Evidence of drug lab activity in West Africa

7 August 2009 - The large quantities of chemicals seized on 15 July by the armed forces of Guinea at several locations in Conakry are far in excess of the country's legitimate demands. Expert assessments confirm that some of the substances are chemicals used to produce drugs, such as ecstasy (MDMA) and solvents commonly used in the processing of cocaine and heroin, that are under international control. Most significantly, high pressure reaction vessels and sassafras oil, used in the manufacture of ecstasy, were found in at least two locations.

The expert assessment follows a request made by the Guinean authorities to the United Nations Resident Coordinator, the UNODC Regional Office for West Africa and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), in close consultation with the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa.

The Government of Guinea, the United Nations and INTERPOL are concerned by the fact that the clandestine production of controlled drugs might be widespread in Guinea. One of the sites visited by UNODC and INTERPOL contained a laboratory for the production of counterfeit antibiotics.

While the Government initially requested investigation at two sites, the experts visited a total of six locations where chemicals were found. The proximity of some of these locations to the local population poses a danger to health. Several persons have already been arrested by authorities of the Government of Guinea.

The United Nations, INTERPOL and the international community are currently consulting with the Government in order to assist in the appropriate disposal of these dangerous substances. UNODC and INTERPOL also recommend that, pending disposal of the chemicals, the Government should prevent the general population from coming in direct contact with the chemicals.

Last month, UNODC issued a report in New York showing that over the past few years West Africa has become a hub not only for the trafficking in cocaine from Latin America to Europe but also for the trafficking in other substances. West Africa suffers from a combination of factors, such as weak governance, that make it vulnerable to organized crime. Criminals are exploiting those conditions to smuggle products through the region.