Gambia seizes almost three tonnes of cocaine in shipment from Ecuador

A police officer sprays gasoline on packages of cocaine, seized from a ship stopped in international waters, before their incineration at a military base in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Gambian authorities seized nearly three tonnes of cocaine from a shipment of industrial salt originating in Ecuador, a spokesman said on Friday, in one of the largest ever busts in West Africa.

The 118 bags of cocaine were discovered on Thursday during a search of a container shipped from the port of Guayaquil in Ecuador and through Algeciras in Spain, said Ousman Saidybah, a spokesman for Gambia’s drug enforcement agency.

It was not clear where the cocaine was ultimately headed. Drug smugglers generally use West Africa as a transshipment point for cocaine en route from South America to Europe, and Saidybah said the drugs were not intended for local consumption.

“This seizure is yet another confirmation that the Gambia, like other West African states, continues to be a storage and transit route for cocaine by international organised criminal groups,” he told reporters.

Record quantities of cocaine were seized in West Africa in 2019, including 9.5 tonnes from a ship that docked in Cape Verde.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the illegal narcotics trade but drug kingpins have responded by packing larger loads of cocaine into the fewer container ships and commercial airplanes in circulation, officials say.

Saidybah said initial findings suggested that the container holding the cocaine belonged to a Gambian resident with a French passport, who is being sought by the police.

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