VIENNA, 22 May - The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, has congratulated Ghana on the seizure of more than 72 kg of cocaine in Port Tema this week.
The cocaine, with a street value of around US$ 7 million in Europe, was uncovered in an operation by Ghanaian police and customs, working together in a Joint Port Control Unit established with the support of UNODC in 2008.
Officers from the Narcotics Control Board, police and customs seized the cocaine in a container which arrived on a ship from Ecuador. Law enforcement officials used profiling techniques learned from the UNODC/World Customs Organization Container Control Programme, after suspicions were raised based on a number of risk indicators. The modus operandi of the criminals suggests that insiders in the port of Ecuador are cooperating with insiders in Port Tema to smuggle drugs and falsify customs documents.
This is the second major success for the Port Tema authorities within the past year. Soon after the launch of the UNODC training programme, officers intercepted three stolen luxury cars in containers coming from Spain which were declared as personal effects.
"This further demonstrates that there are sophisticated networks using container traffic to smuggle illicit goods", said Mr. Costa. "It also shows that law enforcement officials are getting better at reading the warning signs. Criminal groups should learn that developing countries are no longer a safe haven for smuggling".
Some 420 million sea containers move around the world every year and only a tiny fraction is inspected. UNODC and the World Customs Organization have designed the Container Control Programme to assist Governments in developing countries to establish effective controls over the movement of containers and make it harder for terrorists and other criminals to use these for smuggling.
The Programme is now operational in Ecuador, Ghana, Pakistan, Senegal, and Turkmenistan, and will be extended to ports in Central Asia and Latin America.
West Africa is a key transit hub for drug shipments en route to Europe. A report released by UNODC in October 2008 revealed at least 50 tons of cocaine from Latin America are entering West Africa every year, en route to Europe where the drug sells for almost $2 billion.
For information, please contact:
Mr. Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Tel.: (+43-1) 26060 5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629