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UN establishes $3.2m airport intelligence to fight drug trafficking in Ghana, other countries

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The United Nations Organisation on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has joined hands with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Interpol to develop an airport intelligence project to improve communication between police and airports to crack down on drug trafficking in seven West African countries and in Brazil.

The project, launched in Dakar, Senegal, is called “AIRCOP” and is aimed at establishing effective communication and exchange of intelligence between Ghana, Senegal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo during its first phase.

“The $3.2 million project financed by the European Union and Canada, consists in setting up Airport Anti-Traffics Cells (CAAT) made up by mandated police officers to implement anti drugs operations on 8 international airports including 7 in West Africa (Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo) and one in Brazil while Guinea Conakry and Morocco are invited to join the project in not distant future,” said the UNODC on its website.

Airports participating in the programme will have units of not more than 20 people operating around the clock, it indicated.

The UN agency says AIRCOP comes in line with the ECOWAS Regional action plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa as well as with the Dakar initiative to fight the traffic.

International drug traffickers began using West Africa as a base for shipping cocaine from South America to Europe in 2004 due to institutional weaknesses in countries of the region.

Facts presented in a World Bank report titled “World Development Report 2011” indicates that the annual value of the global trade in cocaine and heroin today is estimated at $153 billion (heroin $65 billion and cocaine $88 billion).

The report noted that 25 tonnes of cocaine estimated at $1 billion shipped from South America have been allowed to pass through the borders of countries of the West Africa sub-region before reaching final destinations in Western Europe in 2008.

It further revealed that by the time the cocaine leaves West Africa and gets to its final destinations in Western Europe, it is valued at some $6.8 billion.

In Ghana, the Operation West Bridge project, which was introduced at the Kotoka International Airport by the UK government, has intercepted illicit drugs worth £214 million since its inception in 2007.

Officials at the British High Commission in Accra told ghanabusinessnews.com in April 2011 that the project, operated by the British Customs officials in collaboration with the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) of Ghana, has resulted in the disruption of the flow of narcotics through Ghana to the UK and elsewhere.

Most drugs mainly transit through West Africa by air and sea.

By Ekow Quandzie

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