Drug trafficking in the Sahel : Mali and Niger make several seizures

   These activities were funded by Denmark, the European Union and Japan 

In Mali and Niger, law enforcement officers have seized about 3 kg of cocaine after having arrested two traffickers during the month of September 2017, by overland and aerial routes. During the same period, prison authorities in the Ségou region of Mali were able to seize illicit psychotropic substances thanks to detection equipment provided by UNODC. 

In Niamey, on 6 September 2017, JAITF officers (Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force) seized 1 kg of cocaine on a passenger en route to a European capital. The drug was hidden in the arms of a double-bottomed suitcase, as revealed by the baggage radiograph. The seizure was made possible by applying passenger targeting and profiling techniques, one of the working methods developed by the experts of the UNODC Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP).

West and Central Africa is an increasingly important transit area for cocaine trafficked from Latin America to Europe, as highlighted in the latest World Drug Report. Seizures of cocaine shipments in several countries in the region since 2016, and more recently, in 2017, perfectly illustrate this trend. In the Sahel region in particular, drug trafficking is linked to terrorism, as drug proceeds are often used to finance terrorist activities.

The AIRCOP project is funded by the European Union, co-financed by Japan and Norway, and brings together the efforts of the World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL and UNODC. In this context, UNODC supports the JAITF, which are border control specialized units set up in the international airports of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and which will be connected to the security architecture of the G5 Sahel. The Bamako's JAITF, for example, carried out several seizures of cocaine trafficked from Latin America, in December 2016 and February 2017, in cooperation with the Malian Central Office for Drug Control (Office Central des Stupéfiants in French).

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized in Mali and Niger 

More recently, in September 2017, the Malian OCS arrested a suspect who ingested 106 pellets of cocaine, weighing 1.8 kg, and worth 36 million CFA francs (more than 65 000 USD). On 6 September 2017, the suspect was brought before the prosecutor of the Specialized Judicial Unit, and arrested for international drug trafficking. 

This seizure represents the second cocaine seizure made on the Malian roads in a month, which confirms the adjustment made by drug traffickers, preferring to use roads in order to avoid security controls. Trafficking routes, but also consumption, drug supply, and substances themselves are constantly evolving at an alarming rate, as highlighted by M. Yury Fedotov, UNODC's Executive Director in his preface to the World Drug Report of 2017. States must therefore implement measures in line with the challenge posed by the constantly changing dynamics of drug trafficking markets.

The main cocaine routes from 2012 to 2015, World Drug Report 2017 

In this context, UNODC Sahel Programme supports governments of the Sahel region, aiming to strengthen law enforcement officers' capacities to effectively fight drug trafficking. The Sahel Programme trains these countries' Specialized Units on drug detection, identification, as well as on investigation following drug seizures. UNODC also delivers support on border control (land, aerial and maritime borders), and on intelligence gathering and sharing. In Mali, UNODC also works closely with the MINUSMA to fight these kinds of traffics.

Moreover, UNODC focuses on strengthening detection capacities in prisons. For example, through the provision of drug test kits, and training provided by UNODC on their use, the Director of the Penitentiary Administration of the Segou Region in Mali confirmed the seizure of capsules and tablets at the Segou prison, tested in collaboration with the OCS of Ségou (Segou is approximately 240 km north-east of the capital city Bamako). These products were found to be methamphetamines and codeine morphine, the seizure and identification of which was made possible by applying techniques learnt during a UNODC training session in May 2017

The recent seizures made by Sahelian authorities are operational results that showcase a strong commitment of the region's governments to effectively fight transnational threats undermining security in the Sahel. The progress achieved also demonstrates the relevance of UNODC's support in fighting illicit trafficking, transnational organized crime and terrorism.

For more information:

AIRCOP in West and Central Africa

UNODC Sahel Programme

Sahel Programme resul ts: Airport task forces in Mali and Niger seize drugs

UNODC-WCO Global Container Control Programme

World Drug Report 2017

Sahel Programme Progress Report