Reuters reports that an aircraft carrying 700 kilos of cocaine was abandoned on the runway of Freetown’s Lungi Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning. The pilots reportedly fled after abandoning the airplane. Sierra Leonean authorities also found several assault rifles and ammunition on board the abandoned aircraft.
This is not the first time Sierra Leone has emerged as a destination for drugs. A year ago, I wrote a blog post after reading a Miami Herald story about the siezuere in Venezuela of a Sierra Leone–bound airplane carrying 2.5 tons of cocaine. Due to the increased policing of traditional drug routes into Europe, it seems West Africa is increasingly being used by international drug cartels as a conduit for their Europe-bound product. Makes sense to me. Lax border controls, spotty security at air- and seaports, and corrupt officials are vital ingredients for the international drug trade and and all are abundant in West Africa, including Sierra Leone. Major drug seizures have been carried out in Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as well. Yahoo News reports that the aircraft was marked with a fake Red Cross emblem.
Voice of America just reported that several people—among them the chief of airport police, the airport manager, and the control tower operator—have been arrested and are being questioned. Yahoo News also counts “three Colombians, two Mexicans, a Venezuelan national and a US citizen” among those arrested.
Apparently, President Koroma took the weapons found at the scene back to Freetown in his presidential vehicle. I can’t help but wonder, though, who gets to keep the cocaine.
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UPDATE: Agence France Presse reports that 58 people, including many foreign nationals, have been detained in this case. Police investigations are ongoing.