Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Guinea Bissau: A Narco State in Africa | PBS

Guinea Bissau: A Narco State in Africa | PBS

Frontline's interview with photojournalist Marco Vernaschi, who has recently returned from Guinea Bissau.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Classic Structure of Nigerian Drug Trade

Nigerian drug smugglers differ from what we see in The Godfather or the Sopranos, according to Stephen Ellis inWest Africa's International Drug Trade.

Ellis states the Nigerian structure is as follows:

  1. Drug Baron. Needs three assets

    • Ability to buy drugs cheaply at the source.
    • Good contact in the receiving country.
    • Substantial supply of capital in receiving country

  2. Striker, someone who can strike deals.
    • Typically works for several barons but is essentially self employed.
    • Has a high degree of logistical expertise.
    • Hires couriers.

  3. Couriers or mules.
    • Mostly people in desperate need of money.
    • Do not know who drug baron they are actually working for is.

Ellis' article, in its main thrust, provides an historical background for West Africa's role in the drug trade. He emphasizes Nigeria's role although he also discusses West Africa's recent role as a transit point for bulk cocaine shipments to Europe.

UN: Cocaine Smuggling From West Africa Is Declining

According to UN statisticsthe of cocaine seized in Europe that had passed through Africa has declined greatly in 2009.

Apparently, this decline has resulted from less overall cocaine being smuggled from Africa and not because of more stealthy smuggling techniques.

And which begs the question: If through rapid OODA loops, cocaine smugglers no longer are using the West African route, then what route are they now using?

Cap and Trade Means More Localized Logistics

If Markey-Waxman energy legislation passed Friday by the House of Representatives becomes law, shippers will have to re-think their supply chains to reduce transportation usage.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Corruption Costs Italy More Than EUR60 Billion - Official

Corruption in Italy's public administration costs the country more than EUR60 billion a year

International Crisis Group: Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun

The International Crisis Group presents in Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun, a detailed, albeit confusing, description of political events in Guinea Bissau relating to the near-simultaneous March assassinations of its president and head of its army and the subsequent June killings of a leading presidential candidate and of another leading politician. The more deeply one looks into these events, the murkier they become.

However, the International Crisis Group is able to conclude that the military has played an unhealthy role in these events. Military reform is necessary for Guinea Bissau's political reform.

However, as the Crisis Group admits:

there is strong scepticism in the military that the reforms would provide sufficient guarantee for retired officers. Unless there are reasonable guarantees that they will have decent living conditions, the military will be reluctant to move forward on the reform proc-ess. A senior officer pointed to “the fear of being in a civilian life without a decent means of living”.57 The massive return to uniform of retired officers during the 1998-1999 conflict was motivated principally by a desire to earn a living. Any changes that do not address this issue are bound to be resisted not only by the military but also by the many who depend on the military for their livelihood.

Moreover, the amount of cocaine money flowing through Guinea Bissau, while not precisely known, dwarfs its GDP. The Crisis Group cites $2 billion as an estimate.

Recent West African history has featured impoverished youth joining militias headed by corrupt warlords seeking to profit from the region's commodities. Guinea Bissau's military and its relation to cocaine seems to fit into this pattern.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

United Nations: "Seismic Shift" in Global Cocaine Market

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2009, states that drug trafficking routes are shifting:

The $50 billion global cocaine market is undergoing seismic shifts,' said Mr. Costa. 'Purity levels and seizures (in main consumer countries) are down, prices are up, and consumption patterns are in flux. This may help explain the gruesome upsurge of violence in countries like Mexico. In Central America, cartels are fighting for a shrinking market,' he said.

In West Africa, a decline in seizures seems to reflect lower cocaine flows after five years of rapid growth. 'International efforts are paying off,' said Mr. Costa. Yet drug-related violence and political instability continue, especially in Guinea-Bissau. 'As long as demand for drugs persists, weak countries will always be targeted by traffickers. If Europe really wants to help Africa, it should curb its appetite for cocaine,' said the UN's top drug control official.

In Europe, England is the largest market and has the second highest prevalence rate while Spain has the highest prevalence rate and is the second largest market. Italy and Germany are third and fourth, respectively.

Serbs in Northern Kosovo Continue to Oppose Border Checkpoints

Serbs in Northern Kosovo continue to oppose two checkpoints between Kosovo and Serbia proper.

On Monday and Tuesday, they established roadblocks on the roads leading to these two checkpoints and tried to prevent European Union officials from reaching them.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Testimony of Yale Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Mike McGovern

Yale's Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Mike McGovern made three points while testifying about cocaine trafficking in West Africa before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday:
  • West Africa is a diverse plase; so a one-size-fits all solution will not work.
  • Criminal drug networks often cross-fertilize with criminal networks engaged in other activities.
  • Solutions need to address not only West African government's executive branches but also other branches, particularly the judicial.

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee: Testimony of Former DEA Assistant Adminstrator Michael Braun

According to Michael Braun, former Assistant Administrator and Chief of Operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and former Acting Chief of Intelligencethe threat posed by West Africa is growing while the United States' capacity to respond has declined.

He states that Europe is on the verge of a drug trafficking "catastrophe":

I see Europe today teetering on the brink of a drug trafficking and abuse catastrophe similar to the one our Nation faced about 30 years ago. If you need a visual on what I predict Europe is facing in the years to come, just picture Miami, Florida in the late 1970s, followed by the ‘crack’ cocaine epidemic that exploded all across our Nation in the 1980s. The bottom line—Latin American and Mexican drug lords currently face far less of a threat distributing their poison in Europe then they do in the United States, and there is far more to gain in the way of profits.

While West African gangs are becoming more sophisticated:

Local indigenous organized crime groups in Africa are as brutal, if not more so, than any in the world, but they have historically lacked the sophistication of global drug trafficking cartels and other transnational organized crime groups. However, they are now learning from the most advanced organized crime organizations in the world

and United States' resources have been diverted:

Many Department of Defense detection and monitoring (D&M) resources, as well as maritime interdiction resources, were moved out of Southern Command’s area of responsibility after the 9/11 attacks on our Nation, and these resources have never been fully recouped. These assets are responsible for identifying and interdicting drug loads moving by sea and air. Although Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) interdiction seizures have been nothing short of spectacular over the past few years, it is in large part due to our military working closer with federal law enforcement in the post 9/11 era. Needless to say, if Southern Command recovered those missing D&M and interdiction resources, the seizure numbers would be even greater, including the interdiction of drug loads destined for Europe via Africa.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Testimony of Journalist Douglas Farah

While the penetration of cocaine into West Africa is a major issue, the United States needs to do more, journalist Douglas Farah testified to the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday:
The United States has already taken important steps to engage in this theater. Africom, the DEA and State Department each are devoting considerably more resources to drug issues in West Africa than they were a year or two ago. But by any measure it is not enough, and certainly has not slowed the flow of cocaine through the region. Compartmentalization, stove-piping of information and the continued focus on delimited geographic territories continue to hamper the effectiveness of counter drug programs. It is no longer a useful model to look at the old, static model of Latin American drug trafficking organizations because the new organizations operate on multiple continents rather than a single country or region. Hence, information sharing across regions and across U.S. government agencies is vital to beginning to significantly improve the situation.

US Senate Foreign Affairs Committe Testimony: DEA

According to Thomas Harrigan, the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chief of Operations,while testifying before the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee about drug trafficking in West Africa Object) stated that drug trafficking in Africa impacts the United States and may have links to terrorism:

The cocaine, heroin, chemical, money laundering, and narco-terrorism threats in Africa have an impact on the U.S., particularly since some of the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) that smuggle illicit drugs in the U.S. are the same as those using Africa as a base of operations for smuggling operations into Europe and the Middle East

He added:

Since 2006, DEA investigations and intelligence collection initiatives indicate sub-Saharan Africa has become a major transshipment location for precursor chemicals destined for the Americas.
. Khat also ultimately reaches the US from Africa, he added.

His comments about terrorism were vague:

The threat of narco-terrorism in Africa is a real concern.... The transportation, money laundering and logistical infrastructures utilized by DTOs in Africa are vulnerable, wittingly or unwittingly, for use by terrorist organizations.

His specifics few and sketchy, however:including
  • AQIM, Al Qaeda's Saharan operation could be involved.
  • FARC, the Columbian guerrillas may be involved.
  • Various insurgent, anti-government groups exist

Like DOD and State, DEA has few resources to address the West African cocaine surge, he said:

DEA alone does not have the resources or
authorities to implement parts of our Strategic Concept for Africa.

Senate Foreign Relations Testimony: DOD

Although, according to William Wechsler
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of Counternarcotics and Global Threats
, cocaine trafficking in West Africa has been a major and growing issue since 2005, we have yet to get inside the traffickers' OODA loops:
In conclusion, we are still discovering the scope of the problem in West Africa, and are in the process of building a complete picture and comprehensive plan to assist West African countries in becoming capable partners against drug trafficking organizations.

Specific actions DOD has taken so far include:
  • AFRICOM CNT sponsorship of students from multiple West African nations on Africa Partnership Station to attend courses taught by US Coast Guard Trainers.
  • Construction of a pier and refueling facility to extend the range of the Senegalese Navy.
  • Supported the establishment of Cape Verde Maritime Security Interagency Operations Center, which is an interagency fusion center that will help to develop the regional intelligence picture and communications with US organizations like JIATF-S and the MAOC in Lisbon.
  • Construction of a climate controlled facility at the international airport at Accra, Ghana to screen passengers suspected of swallowing drugs.
  • Collaborating with 6th Fleet to construct a boat facility in Ghana to support Defender Class boats that were provided by the US.
  • Supporting the training or the future Liberia Coast Guard Commander and Deputy Commander at the International Maritime Officer’s Course at the USCG training facility in Yorktown, VA

Senate Foreign Relations Committe Hearings: State Department Testimony About West African Cocaine Traffic

According to Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson,Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, while testifying Tuesday before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

West Africa is appealing to traffickers for several reasons. It has endured a staggering level of poverty, which promotes a susceptibility to corruption: on average, 50% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. West Africa lies in close proximity to Latin America. Dakar, Senegal, is 700 miles closer to Recife, Brazil, than it is to Paris, France. West Africa’s borders also are mostly unguarded and porous. The region boasts more than 2,600 miles of coastline. In perspective, our Pacific coast (minus Alaska) and Atlantic coast each are less than 2,100 miles long. West Africa’s area and population are slightly less than that of our contiguous 48 states. Many governments do not have the legal systems, judicial structures, plans, funding, resources, and political will to combat drugs. Half the region’s population is under the age of 18 and the unemployment rate of the work-age population average is 30-50%. Thus, the trafficking of illegal narcotics is a lucrative alternative in a culture disposed to view narcotics like any other commodity to buy and sell.

According to Carson, billions of dollars worth of cocaine are now smuggled through Guinea Bissau alone:

Guinea-Bissau’s GDP is $340 million; that is the wholesale value of six tons of cocaine, which can easily be trans-shipped over one to two months. This creates a threat to good governance, local and regional stability, and development in West Africa. UNODC has noted that,
“The relationship between diamond smuggling and the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia has been well documented, but, at their peak, profits accruing from this activity amounted to some tens of millions of dollars per year. The potential destabilizing influence of the cocaine traffic, where the value of a single consignment can exceed that sum, is very real.”

In the face of this onslaught, Carson proposes the United States respond with perhaps two cents worth of assistance for every dollar's worth of cocaine trafficked through West Africa:

For Fiscal Year 2010, the Department has requested $7.96 million in narcotics and law enforcement assistance for West Africa.


  • Guinea-Bissau ($3 million)
  • Cape Verde ($2 million)
  • Nigeria ($2 million)
  • Ghana ($500,000)
  • Sierra Leone ($250,000)
  • Guinea ($110,000)
  • Burkina Faso ($100,000).

"To complement these efforts, we propose applying $42.4 million in other Department resources to bolster democracy, governance, and rule of law programs in these countries," Carson adds.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings on West Africa

The US Senate committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on "Confronting Drug Trafficking in West Africa" on Tuesday.


Panel 1:
  • The Honorable Johnnie Carson
    Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    Department of State
    Washington, DC
  • William Wechsler
    Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
    Counternarcotics and Global Threats
    Department of Defense
    Washington, DC
  • Thomas M. Harrigan
    Chief of Operations
    Drug Enforcement Administration
    Washington, DC

Panel 2:
  • Douglas Farah
    Senior Fellow
    International Assessment & Strategy Center
    Takoma Park, MD
  • Michael Braun
    Managing Partner
    Spectre Group International
    Alexandria, Virginia
  • Michael McGovern
    Assistant Professor of Anthropology
    Yale University
    New Haven, CT

Detailed blogging on each witness's testimony will follow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Albanian Organized Crime

An isolated society with very firm beliefs in issues of honor and manhood pride coupled with severe social problems and a culture of vendetta; has been transformed into a huge international crime network.

This report describes Albanian organized crime, which distributes approximately 80% of Europe's heroin, which comes from Afghanistan. Besides providing general details, it describes the close interconnection between drug dealing, on the one hand, and human trafficking, on the other.

Increasingly, Albanian organized crime is distributing not only heroin, but cocaine as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Allianz - Allianz piracy study highlights how ship-owners can respond to increased risk.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), a leading insurer of ships and cargo, has released a study suggesting its clients adapt their approach to marine insurance as the threat of piracy off the Horn of Africa continues to grow. In addition, the study points out that crews entering dangerous waters must be prepared to handle an attack, and it calls for a more coordinated solution to the current wave of piracy.

In a study released today entitled “Piracy: An ancient risk with modern faces”, AGCS suggests that special ‘war’ insurance policies should be used to meet the needs of ships in high risk areas. AGCS also identifies a number of practical responses that crews can take when passing through piracy zones, and the study also points out that whilst piracy may be on the rise off Somalia and other parts of Africa, it is declining in other areas, but still poses a real threat to shipping and trade. “Anybody who has been involved with actual pirates knows the grim reality they live in and the damage they can inflict,” states AGCS Global Marine Head Arthur E. Moossmann.
Currently many vessels are insured for piracy as part of their standard ‘hull and machinery’ insurance policies, which are not specifically designed to address security-related risks such as piracy. This means that some ship-owners are paying for piracy coverage when they do not need it because they are not sailing through piracy zones. So-called ‘war’ insurance provides special cover for ships exposed to piracy risks on a ‘per transit’ basis, meaning that it can be specifically underwritten to handle various exposures besides damage to the vessel and therefore can be priced more flexibly.
“There are a lot of shipping companies out there that are paying for piracy cover that do not need it as part of their hull and machinery policies,” explains Dr. Sven Gerhard, Global Hull and Liabilities Product Leader at AGCS. “Conversely, there are a lot of vessels that are exposed to high levels of piracy risk because of the routes they travel that – under current underwriting – cannot arrange more flexible, individually suited piracy coverage because it could be part of their general hull and machinery policies.”
AGCS covers around 12% of the roughly 30,000 tankers, container ships, bulker carriers and cargo ships insured globally. In addition to insurance issues, the carrier also explains why ships’ crews themselves need to be aware of the risks and how best to prepare for them. To match pirates’ tactics, boat crews need to be properly trained to employ defenses, such as long-range acoustic devices, securing the ship’s perimeter and maintaining speed in exposed areas, although they are strongly cautioned not to use weapons.

Key points from the study
The study looks at general piracy trends today, piracy hotspots, insurance solutions, modern piracy methods and risk mitigation. It provides a variety of sources as well as insights from Allianz experts from every part of the Marine insurance industry who have had first-hand experience with piracy cases.

* Most of the attention today is on the rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia and around the Gulf of Aden. 102 pirate attacks were reported here in the first quarter of 2009, compared to 53 in 2008. Somalia and the Gulf of Aden accounted for 61 of the total – up from 6 in 2008. Somalia is suffering from nearly 20 years of violent civil war, and its people live on an average of less than $2 a day. The causes of piracy there are so complex that the current problem is likely to continue for some time, and it is critical that ships passing through the region are well prepared and properly insured.
* The region is ideal for piracy because the Gulf of Aden is the gateway to the Suez Canal, and some 20,000 tankers, freighters and merchant ships pass through it every year. Pirates are now ranging farther and farther out to sea, attacking ships off the coast of neighboring countries such as Yemen, and their impact on global shipping is growing.
* The waters off Nigeria have also shown an increase in recent years, especially in the region off Lagos and the Bonny River, with 40 reported attacks in 2008 (Source: ICC – International Maritime Bureau). It is one of a few regions which are in danger of becoming a larger piracy hotspot.
* Piracy has generally shown a declining trend in other areas such as Southeast Asia, often due to a concentrated international response.
* The identification of pirates is often difficult, due to their use of small motor skiffs, which are hard to see on radar and can be mistaken for fishing craft. Therefore, reported data on piracy may be less than in reality.
* What works to reduce piracy in one region may not work in others. An international patrol effort has done a great deal to reduce attacks in the Malacca Straits. In the Indian Ocean off Somalia, however, the area of water is simply too vast to police, so military patrols only help a little and may even escalate violence. Therefore, a solution to the current wave of piracy will need a more integrated military, political and economic effort.
* The paper calls for a larger international effort to tackle the root causes of the current wave of piracy off the coast of Somalia and around the Gulf of Aden: poverty and violence on the mainland.

About Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty is the Allianz Group’s dedicated carrier for corporate and specialty insurance customers. The company provides insurance and risk management consultancy across the whole spectrum of Marine, Aviation and Corporate business, including Energy, Engineering, Financial Lines (incl. D&O), Liability and Property insurance, including International Insurance Programs. See the Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty website http://www.agcs.allianz.com for further details.
Worldwide, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty operates in over 70 countries through the Allianz Group network. It employs more than 2,500 people and provides insurance solutions to more than half of the Fortune Global 500 companies, writing a total of €2.9 billion gross premium annually (2008).

Lloyds: "Piracy Tax" to Affect Shipping

Accrding to Lloyds of London, increased piracy will amount to a piracy tax on shipping.

According to Lloyds, not only will Somali piracy persist and grow, but it will be copied elsewhere.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


More proof the so-called war on terror is in bad form:

"Yet today's MI6 is an organisation unrecognisable to those who served in it even during its Cold War heyday. Chaps in raincoats and wide-brimmed hats are surplus to requirements in the age of global terrorism, arms trafficking, cyber and economic warfare.".

It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.

Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Meanwhile, Latin American cocaine dealers continue to smuggle drugs into Europe directly via the traditional direct route to the Netherlands.

This direct route remains viable in part because they have, in Latin America, co-opted the very police who are supposed to prevent them:

"The arrested police officer appears to be a member of the so-called JAP squad, set up to fight drug-running."

This particular effort was foiled because the smugglers were unable to penetrate tight security on the Dutch end of things.

Which in turn, suggests that the smugglers will also have to co-opt the Dutch as well as the Surinamese.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Play It Again Sam, In Guinea Bissau

Apparently the Rick's Café Américain of Guinea Bissau is the Bissau Palace.

The writer visits it, where he meets some unpleasant Lebanese chaps.

Hezbollah does have operations in West Africa, including Guinea Bissau and there are links between Hezbollah and the drug trade.

So who knows about the writer's new friends?

Why Guinea Bissau's President Killed Its Army Chief

Planes lined to Mexican drug cartels land. Seized cocaine disappeared. Interpol is frustrated. Guinea Bissau: A bomb, private jets and cocaine: by Marco Vernaschi details this and more.

For flavor:

Genetral Tagme Na Wai was killed by a sophisticated bomb, made in Thailand, the kind of device you need to buy outside of Guinea-Bissau; outside most of Africa, in fact, an indication of foreign involvement. It’s not clear who was flying on this jet. Planes are often used to smuggle cocaine to Europe but they usually don’t land at the main airport.

Manuals on How to Deter Pirates

Two manuals on how to deter pirates:

  1. Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Coast of Somalia

  2. Piracy - The East Africa / Somalia Situation - Practical Measures to Avoid, Deter, and Delay Piracy Attacks in the Gulf of Aden and other Waters near the Horn of Africa - A Seafarer's Guide

YouTube - Africa's Cocaine Coast - Africa

Follow this link to see a 24-minute video report on cocaine's role in Guinea Bissau.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Global Warming to Further Undermine West Africa.

West Africa, which is already politically unstable, is likely to find its agriculture vulnerable to global warming.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
It will take at least ten years to develop a variety of staple grain that will survive in the climates caused by global warming in most parts of Africa, and the continent has less than two decades in which to do it, warn the authors of a new study.

It adds:
Six countries in the Sahel - Senegal, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone, the hottest in Africa - are of major concern to the researchers, as they will face conditions unlike any currently encountered by farmers in the continent.

"Of course, parts of these countries will never be able to grow maize [which is more heat sensitive]," he said, and would have to settle for the "drought-tolerant maize, which is sorghum". Many parts of Africa would no longer be able to grow anything.

Guarino said it was possible to develop crop varieties in simulated conditions, based on projections for the Sahel belt, but very few traditional primary cereal crops - African varieties of maize, millet and sorghum - selected by farmers over the centuries for their unique suitability to local growing conditions were available in genebanks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

West African Militias

As the recent assassination of leading politicians in Guinea Bissau illustrates, militias are a problem in West African society.

John Emeka Akude, in Recipe For Strife explores the factors that have caused militias to play such a major role in West Africa.


Under the new international dispensation, it is no longer necessary to control an entire state in order to exploit natural resources. It is enough to have access to the commodities in question. Some strongmen who lost state-guaranteed privileges turned to attacking states’ resource bases. Precious stones, gold, iron ore and even timber are lucrative resources on the world market. Those who sell them – whether legally so or not – make good incomes.

As state institutions became redundant, however, employment in the public sector began to dwindle. The number of alienated youth rose astronomically. Even many educated young men no longer had a perspective of steady employment. Youth unemployment in West Africa today is about 50 % (UNOWA 2006: iv). For most of the affected, the choices are
– armed robbery,
– joining a militia,
– smuggling cocaine to the West, or
– embarking on a dangerous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean with shanty boats.

It is easy for members of the disgruntled elite to recruit the unemployed as foot soldiers. Militia leaders can thrive on the global trade in conflict resources, while their rank and file terrorise societies. In an ironic twist, spreading violence boosts the standing and credibility of warlords, as they can offer a sense of security to those loyal to them.

Heron MALE UAVs Assume maritime Surveillance Roles

To counter narcotics smuggling, nations are beginning to use UAVs.

Recently, the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)and El Salvadoran forces tested the Israeli Heron 1 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.

Here is a video of the Heron's capabilities:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Guinea's Present Dictator Incicts Officials of Prior Dictator for Cocaine Smuggling

"About 20 people, including the former chief of the armed forces and his son, have been indicted in the West African nation of Guinea on drug-related charges, a statement read on national TV said." The people charged also include the former head of the country's navy as well as 10 foreign nationals, including one Israeli.

Guinea's leader, Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara, who seized power last December, has pledged to clean up corruption.

According to critics, so far, he has focused on the prior regime's officials even though some of his own officials are also believed to be corrupt.

Like many other West African nations, Guinea has become a transit point for smuggling cocaine into Europe.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sierra Leone Said to Be Making Progress In Fighting Drugs

"While the government and international agencies are making what the UN calls “considerable” progress on reducing drug trafficking in Sierra Leone, the trafficking – coupled with youth unemployment and corruption – remains one of the most destabilizing forces in the country, officials say.", according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

However, the Office also states, "The amount of drugs trafficked in Sierra Leone is unknown."

Is Kosovo a Narco-State

The Roman Gate presents the case thatKosovo has become a narco state.

Among other things, it asserts that the Kosovo mafia has replaced Italy's 'Ndrangheta as the primary importer of cocaine into Europe. It also provides a map of smuggling routes within Kosovo.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Boiko Borissov, Flamboyant Bulgarian Politician

Boiko Borissov, mayor of Sofia,head of Bulgaria's center-right GERB party, and leading candidate to become Bulgaria's next prime minister reportedly "is seen in Sofia nightspots with the widow of a prominent Bulgarian banker assassinated by an organised crime group".

Described as a "cigar smoking populist," Borissov reportedly "raises eyebrows in Brussels."

Bulgaria is part of the "Balkan Route" whereby organized crime traffics various items, including drugs, into Europe.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Assassinated Guinea-Bissau Politician Rurored to Have Been Involved In Drug Smuggling

Recently assassinated Guinea-Bissau presidential candidate, Baciro Dabo,has been rumored to have been involved in drug smuggling based upon his flashy lifestyle.

Dabo, along former defense minister Helder Proenca and two bodyguards, were assassinated by Guinea-Bissal soldiers on Friday, June 5. A third former minister, first also reported as having been assassinated, was severely beaten. Dabo's supporters state that Dabo was shot while in his bed while his opponents state that Dabo was plotting a coup and was resisting arrest.

Despite this assassination, Guinea-Bissau, which has a long history of political violence, shall proceed with its election scheduled for June 28.

Whatever the truth about Dabo's drug involvement, Guinea-Bissau has become a target for Latin American drug smugglers, who are using the country as a staging post for smuggling cocaine into Europe.

Defense and the National Interest � 4GW comes to a town near you

Chet Richards, in 4GW comes to a town near you uses the Mexican cartels' growing use of Atlanta as a distribution hub to state that, while the state is not fading away, "in some areas, large numbers of people are transferring their primary loyalties to organizations other than the state to which they happen to be citizens."

Chet states,

Bill Lind suggests that the defining characteristic of 4GW is “a crisis in the legitimacy of the state.” This is sometimes simplified to “the decline of the state,” but it does not mean that states everywhere are going away. That is patently not the case.

Generally, Lind's point is taken to mean that - in post-Westphalian times, it has been moral for the state - and only the state - to crack one's skull; while it has not been moral for you, me, our family, our church, some cljavascript:void(0)ub, or any other entity to do same.

But there is another aspect to this. Apparently, in some people's minds, legalizing or not legalizing narcotics is a moral statement.

For example, a friend recently told me that if cocaine were to be legalized, then parents could not tell their children to to use it. It is hard to think of a polite reply given the level of violence and human degradation which the so-called War on Drugs has caused.

This further ignores the point that, for example, many other parents, who happen to believe that eating non-Kosher foods to be immoral, have nevertheless successfully raised their children without needing to inflict some wanton War on Non-Kosher Foods on the rest of society.

Nevertheless, in my friend's mind - and that of many other Americans - the state has some body of moral authority so that, by legalizing cocaine, it would somehow legitimize it.

Others, such as me, think that cocaine's legal status has no bearing on its moral status one way or the other, so this calls into greater question the so-called War on Drugs.

If Lind is correct, then with time my friend's viewpoint should recede.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Brandon Sun Online

As we have previously noted, opposition from ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo and European Union efforts to assist the Kosovo government establish customs inspection between Serbia proper and Kosovo.

Hundreds of ethnic Serbs protested the customs posts on Tuesday.

In other action, the Kosovo government filed charges against two Serb leaders for allegedly inciting violence by, during another protest earlier this year, urging protestors to set fire to the customs stations.

The inspection posts are sited in North Kosovo, which has a predominately ethnic Serb population.

Another Look at Sierra Leone's Airport

As a follow thru to our prior post on Sierra Leone's lax security in its Freetown-Lungi International Airport, readthis colorful description of how things work there.


Infamous for the astonishingly bad urban planning which located it across a large body of water from the capital city, Lungi is also notable for being the approximate size of a postage stamp. One runway, bordered by broken-down planes and a debris-strewn grassy plain, leads to an unimpressive two-story building with gap-toothed yellow-and-black letters spelling out Freetown Freetown Air Port Arrival International Airport. Inside are perhaps 5 main areas – lobby, departures immigration, security and departure lounge, arrivals immigration, and baggage claim. All together, the airport’s square footage is probably about the same as two average middle class American homes.


Now, security at Lungi is profoundly questionable at the best of times. There is no metal detector, no x-ray scanner, no narcotics-trained bloodhounds. Security consists of a cursory search (repeated three times but never involving more than a superficial rifling) of all luggage, and a physical pat-down to check for weapons or contraband.

First problem: it would be profoundly difficult for this process to uncover any but the most blatantly obvious breaches of law or security. When someone opens my backpack zipper, peers inside, and then zips it closed again, they’re apt to miss anything smaller than an AK-47. As proof, I can tell you that I have on several occasions brought 1.5-liter bottles of water through security in my carry-on backpack without detection. (Purely accidentally, of course – I have the utmost respect for the “put your 3-oz facial moisturizer in a plastic baggie and we’re all safe” rule, and would never try to smuggle extra drinking water on board.) In case you’re not clear, a 1.5-liter bottle of water is quite large. Almost the size of a big jug of Coke. If they can’t find that, how exactly will they find hidden narcotics or diamonds?


Second problem: it is tremendously easy to bypass this procedure entirely. You don’t have to be much of a VIP or pull too many strings to find someone to walk you straight out onto the tarmac and on board the plane. If my businessmen friends can do this with one simple phone call because they’re late and want to catch their flight, a cocaine baron could clearly arrange something of the sort to facilitate his multi-million dollar cargo. And anyway, the grounds of the airport are totally open to the surrounding community, so pretty much anyone can wander in and out as he pleases.

But all these problems pale in comparison to what happens when the security officers themselves stop taking their job very seriously – or at all seriously.

Mexican Cartels Exploit Africa Not Only For Cocaine But Also For Methamphetamine

Mexican drug cartels, facing increased pressure on the raw chemicals used to make methamphetamineare turning to Africa as well as to some Mideastern countries, according to Todd Bensman of globalpost. Other Central American countries, such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, also are being exploited.

Bensman cites a report from United Nations International Narcotics Control Board. It states:

The strengthened monitoring and control of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine shipments to North America helped to prevent the diversion of those substances in the region. However, trafficking networks have been exploring new ways to supply illicit methamphetamine laboratories in that region. It is believed that smuggling and diversion of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from domestic distribution channels are now among the most common methods of supply. As orders for raw materials are brought under increasing scrutiny by authorities worldwide, traffickers have turned to placing orders with legitimate pharmaceutical companies for preparations containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, purportedly to be sent to developing countries. In many regions, controls over pharmaceutical preparations continued to be less stringent or even non-existent. Numerous cases of diversion and attempted diversion of ephedrine and
pseudoephedrine, often in the form of preparations,
were identified and reported to the Board. In those
cases, traffickers targeted the following countries in
  • Argentina,
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • Botswana,
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo,
  • Ethiopia,
  • Guatemala,
  • Honduras,
  • Iraq,
  • Mexico,
  • Nauru,
  • Nicaragua,
  • Nigeria,
  • Poland,
  • South Africa,
  • Uganda,
  • United Arab Emirates,
  • United Republic of
  • Zambia.

It continues:

Africa remains a major area of diversion of precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants. At the same time, trafficking patterns in Africa stand in sharp contrast with the low number of seizures made by Governments in the region. In 2008, participants in Project Prism and in Operation Ice Block identified numerous suspicious shipments to Africa that were suspected of having Mexico as their final destination. In total, over 30 tons of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were prevented from being diverted to or through Africa.
48. Organized criminal groups have made use of fictitious companies and falsified import authorizations and company documents for their trafficking activities. Ethiopia, in particular, was targeted by traffickers who attempted to consign two shipments of pseudoephedrine and one shipment of ephedrine totalling 12.5 tons. The shipments, which involved falsified import licences, were stopped at the request of the Ethiopian authorities. The United Republic of Tanzania also was a victim of the falsification of import permits. Countries in Africa were importing quantities of those substances in considerable excess of the amounts reported as their legitimate annual needs. One instance of such inconsistency involved a single shipment to Uganda of 300 kg of pseudoephedrine, which was seized upon arrival. The Board notes with concern that a number of African States have consistently failed to respond to enquiries about potentially suspicious transactions, owing in part to lack of capacity in the competent authorities involved.


After Mexico banned the import of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, imports by several Central and South American countries increased significantly. Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have been targeted by organized criminal groups for purposes of acquiring the substances and subsequently smuggling them from those domestic markets into North America, thereby circumventing the controls in place and ensuring the supply for illicit drug manufacture operations. The Board alerted the Government of Argentina to the increasingly excessive imports of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine into that country over the past several years. In 2008, the Argentinean authorities seized 1,222 kg of ephedrine. In one case, a consignment of 600 kg of ephedrine was discovered concealed in a shipment of sugar being exported to Mexico. The main importing companies in Argentina have been scrutinized by the authorities to verify the legitimate end use of the substance. As of the present writing, one major company has been closed and others have forfeited their licences as evidence grows that they were supplying illicit manufacturers of methamphetamine.
50. An increase in seizures of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in Central America and South America was reported, with Guatemala and Peru seizing large amounts of pseudoephedrine tablets. The destruction in July 2008 of the first methamphetamine laboratory ever in Argentina provides a clear indication of the growing interest of trafficking organizations in sourcing precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants from South America

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Former Prime Minister: Only Reforming Its Military Can Save Guinea-Bissau

According to its former prime minister, only reforming its military can save Guinea-Bissau from being dominated by drug cartels.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary

ForeignPolicy.com, in Revenge of the Geographers, presents a series of critiques of Robert Kaplan's Revenge of the Geographers.

Kaplan's article, which we have discussed, assers

In this century's fight for Eurasia, like that of the last century, Mackinder's axiom holds true: Man will initiate, but nature will control. Liberal universalism and the individualism of Isaiah Berlin aren't going away, but it is becoming clear that the success of these ideas is in large measure bound and determined by geography. This was always the case, and it is harder to deny now, as the ongoing recession will likely cause the global economy to contract for the first time in six decades. Not only wealth, but political and social order, will erode in many places, leaving only nature's frontiers and men's passions as the main arbiters of that age-old question: Who can coerce whom? We thought globalization had gotten rid of this antiquarian world of musty maps, but now it is returning with a vengeance.

We all must learn to think like Victorians. That is what must guide and inform our newly rediscovered realism. Geographical determinists must be seated at the same honored table as liberal humanists, thereby merging the analogies of Vietnam and Munich. Embracing the dictates and limitations of geography will be especially hard for Americans, who like to think that no constraint, natural or otherwise, applies to them. But denying the facts of geography only invites disasters that, in turn, make us victims of geography.

Most of these articles focus on the subjective consequences of following the various Victorian era thinkers whom Kaplan has cited.

This focus misses the point. The point is that - unlike the recent past - moving stuff from point A to Point B is no longer something we can take for granted. Whatever should be done in Afghanistan is being severely constrained by the difficulties we are facing in supplying the army. The Somali pirates matter because they lie so near the Suez canal. Mexican drug cartels, facing increased difficulties in moving cocaine across the United States' border, are responding by developing new distribution routes to Europe.

All of these are logistics problems. And they are going to grow more, not less, problematic with time. Solving these problem will require us to place greater and greater weight on the geography surrounding the routes through which stuff must flow.

This challenge is more important than any revival of Victorianism ( even though the Victorians, for all their faults, nevertheless did legalize cocaine. )

Friday, June 5, 2009

Guinea-Bissau Military Police, Alleging a Coup Attempt, Kill Presidential Candidate, Two Former Ministers

Military police in Guinea-Bissau on Friday killed a government minister who was to be a candidate in presidential elections and two former ministers. Government authorities claim that the three men were plotting a coup attempt but supporters of the former ministers claim the killings were to prevent prosecutions for the March assassination of Guinea-Bissau's president.

Five individuals in total were killed
, including a driver and a bodyguard in addition to the three ministers. The three former ministers were presidental candidate and territorial administration minister Baciro Dabo, former defence minister Helder Proenca and ex-prime minister Faustino Embali.

In March, both Guinea-Bissau's president and its head of army were assassinated. Subsequently, Guinea-Bissau's state prosecutor, citing insufficient money, stated he could not afford to investigate the twin assassinations.

Guinea-Bissau has become a major depot for Latin American drug cartels seeking to smuggle cocaine into Europe.

According to Wikipedia:

Dabo had been a singer and a journalist before entering politics.[2] He became the Minister of Territorial Administration and a senior member of the governing African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).[3] He was a close ally of President Joao Bernardo Vieira who was assassinated by members of the armed forces, who blamed him for an explosion which killed the Chief of Staff, Batista Tagme Na Wai on 2 March 2009.[3][2] There had been a long and violent feud between Vieira and Na Wai.[2] No-one was prosecuted for the killing and a presidential election was scheduled for 28 June to select a new president.[3] Dabo resigned as a minister in May 2009 to put himself forward as an independent candidate and became one of 13 candidates contesting the election.[3][4] Election campaigning was due to open on 6 June.[2]

His supporters say that between 3.30 and 4 am (local and GMT) on 5 June 2009 a group of around 30 uniformed and armed soldiers arrived at his home and demanded to see him.[5] The soldiers were then said to have shot their way to Dabo's bedroom where he was asleep in bed with his wife, injuring some of his six-member security team in the process.[5][6] The soldiers are then alleged to have shot Dabo several times, killing him instantly.[7] News agency, Agence France-Presse has stated that a "medical source" told them that Dabo had suffered three Kalashnikov bullet wounds to the abdomen and one to the head, fired from short range.[5]

The Guinea-Bissauan authorities present a different series of events and say that he died in an exchange of fire whilst resisting arrest over an alleged coup plot.[3] Former Defence Minister is also reported to have been killed on a road between Bula and Bissau alongside his driver and a bodyguard.[8] The BBC says there are unconfirmed reports that former Prime Minister Faustino Fudut Imbali was also killed, and his wife says that he was taken away by the military.[3] Several other PAIGC politicians have been detained by security forces as part of the coup investigation.[3] The Guinea-Bissauan state intelligence service says that the coups aims were "physically eliminating the head of the armed forces, overthrowing the interim head of state and dissolving the national assembly".[3]

It has been suggested by journalists that he was killed on the orders of military leaders who feared prosecution over the assassination of the president had Dabo won the election.[3] It is feared that if a power vacuum occurs Latin American drug cartels will be able to extend their influence over the country, which serves as a port for the shipping of cocaine to Europe.[2]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Technical Backgrounder on Pirate Insurance

The linked post provides technical information about what sorts of insurance coverage may be available against pirate attacks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bulgarian Campaign Rhetoric Gets Rough

According to the head of Bulgaria's opposition GERB party,the parties from Bulgaria's ruling three-way coalition have raised much of the money for their election campaigns through illegal trafficking, including drugs, and contraband," heading into Bulgaria's upcoming election.

He added that the his GERB party, headed by Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov, has spent much less.

These accusations are interesting because, according to Congressional Quarterly, Borisov himself has ties with "some of the biggest mobsters in Bulgaria." Borisov has denied this.

Whatever ties either faction may have with organized crime, Bulgarian criminal gangs are among the major cocaine traffickers in Europe.

So Dubai is the New Costa Del Sol?

As we have previously noted, the south coast of Spain, the Costa del Sol, has become Europe's legendary refuge for British, Camorra, Russian, and other gangsters.

However, Spain has been stepping up enforcement. England's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) "said some were realising Spain was no longer the sanctuary it had been and were turning their attention to other destinations such as Dubai."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Costs of Piracy.

According to the Journal of Commerce, negotiating with pirates can backfire:
"The initial ransom demand — $3 million — was negotiated down to $1 million.

But by the time the ship, which was carrying a knockdown oil rig and a crew of four Russians and five Filipinos, was returned, Scan-Trans had spent $5 million."

And then try to get your insurers to cover some of this...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Africa's Role in the Drug Trade

The articleAFRICA-US: Growing Drug Trade Linked to Terror Groups restates many points covered in this blog about how West Africa is becoming a staging ground to import cocaine from Latin America into Europe.

Contrasting the high value of cocaine with the low GDP's of many West African nations, the article explores what role poverty in those countries might contribute to West Africa's growing role in the narcotics trade without reaching firm conclusions.

It quotes Michael Braun, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief of operations, as asserting that this growth in drug trade as fostering "hybrid terrorist organisation," but cites no direct evidence that these are emerging.

The article's most interesting point is its last:
There is also the very real possibility that the problem could worsen drastically as demand continues to rise. Furthermore, coca is a hardy plant that can survive in even harsh climes. Thus, it may only be a matter of time before West Africa's drug trafficking problem becomes a drug production problem.