UNODC chief welcomes major cocaine seizure in Guinea-Bissau, urges full backing for police

VIENNA, 4 April 2007 - The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, complimented the police of Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday on a major cocaine seizure and urged the country's Government to ensure that the drugs were disposed of properly.

A consignment of around 635 kg of cocaine, with a street value in western Europe of around $54 million, was intercepted by Judiciary Police near the capital Bissau on Tuesday.

However, traffickers escaped with the remainder of a consignment believed to total around 2.5 tonnes of cocaine which had been flown into a military airstrip because police did not have the manpower or vehicles to give chase.

"I commend the Judiciary Police for their bravery and resourcefulness in making this important seizure," Mr Costa said. "It is regrettable that the rest of the consignment was not intercepted but hardly surprising as the police are woefully ill-equipped and often do not even have enough gasoline to operate their vehicles."

The UNODC Executive Director urged the authorities of Guinea-Bissau to ensure that the seized cocaine was disposed of properly and verifiably and did not simply "disappear," as had happened in the past. He said there was evidence that government officials and members of the armed forces were involved in illicit drug trafficking and police attempting to disrupt the trade had been threatened.

"This is one of the worst forms of corruption and it must be vigorously resisted," Mr Costa said. "All governments have a legal obligation to fight drug trafficking and take action against corruption on their territory."

"I urge Guinea-Bissau's international partners to support the country's police in their efforts to fight drugs and ensure they have basic equipment such as vehicles, fuel and functioning radio systems. If support is not forthcoming, I fear that honest police officers could become discouraged. This country must not be allowed to become a narco-state."

The UNODC chief complimented the United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau for its efforts to assist in the fight against drugs and corruption and asked for its assistance in ensuring the seized cocaine was destroyed.