More arrests in billion dollar cocaine seizure in Gambia

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Another three arrests have been made in Gambia after authorities seized more than two tonnes of cocaine with a street value of roughly a billion dollars (835 million euros), sources said Wednesday.

"We have arrested three other people including two Gambians and another Nigerian last night linked to the cocaine case and the investigations continues as more is expected to come," a senior police source told AFP.

He told AFP that "12 people were first arrested on 12 May 2010 following a tip-off by residents in the village of Bonto, about 45 kilometres away from the capital, Banjul."

The initial 12 suspects were arrested with three kilos (6.6 pounds) of cocaine, and after an investigation with the help of Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) more than two tonnes of cocaine were discovered outside Banjul on June 4.

They included four Nigerians, three Ghanians, two Venezuelans, and three Dutch nationals.

Authorities also found 250,000 dollars in cash and a number of loaded firearms. The two tonnes of cocaine were in 85 sacks in an underground bunker concealed behind a false wall.

Another 60 empty sacks indicated "the bunker had been used as a distribution centre."

"It has long been feared that cocaine traffickers might seek to exploit the Gambia and other countries in the region as warehousing locations for drugs en route from South America to Europe," said SOCA deputy director Neil Giles.

"It is highly likely a large proportion of these drugs would have found their way on to the streets of Europe and the UK. Taking this cocaine, and the profits it would have generated, out of the hands of criminals is a major blow to their operations."

In March, Gambian President Yayha Jammeh said there would be "zero tolerance" for drug-trafficking after 11 senior officials were arrested as part of a probe linked to drugs.

West Africa has become a key transit point for South American cartels who seek to take advantage of weak governance and corruption which plague many of the region's states.

© 2010 AFP

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