March 11, 2019 / 6:33 PM / 10 days ago

Adviser to Niger official arrested in Guinea Bissau cocaine bust

BISSAU (Reuters) - A man arrested in Guinea Bissau last week following the seizure of nearly 800 kg of cocaine from a fish truck is an adviser to the speaker in Niger’s parliament, judicial police in Guinea Bissau said on Monday.

The 789 kg stash was the largest ever seized in Guinea Bissau, a former Portuguese colony on the Atlantic Coast that has long been a major trans-shipment point for Latin American cocaine headed to Europe.

Guinea Bissau’s police arrested four individuals near the town of Safim including Mohamed Sidi Ahmed, an adviser to Nigerien parliament speaker Ousseini Tinni, said Domingos Monteiro, deputy director of the judicial police.

Sidi Ahmed, who was carrying an ID card for the National Assembly of Niger, was presented to the public prosecutor and remains in detention, Monteiro said.

It was not immediately possible to contact Sidi Ahmed’s lawyer. A spokeswoman for Tinni was not available for comment. The identities of the three other individuals who were arrested were not immediately clear.

The judicial police said that the seizure of the drugs near the town of Safim was the result of a four-month intelligence operation. The largest prior cocaine seizure in Guinea Bissau was 650 kg in 2007.

The United Nations said last year that Africa and Asia were becoming cocaine trafficking and consumption hubs, and Guinea Bissau’s mix of weak law enforcement and a maze of islands and unpoliced mangroves have helped make it a smuggler’s haven.

The country voted on Sunday in long-delayed parliamentary elections, which are meant to draw a line under political wrangling that has seen seven different prime ministers in the last five years.

Reporting By Alberto Dabo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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