An international team of detectives and the Kenyan security services found a stash of weapons and narcotic drugs believed to be crystallised cocaine hidden in vehicle tyres aboard a vehicle carrier vessel docked in Mombasa to deliver a cargo of 257 Indian-made armoured personnel carriers for onward distribution to the armies of four African countries.
Kenyan media reports have it the military vehicles aboard the Norwegian-flagged MV Hoegh Transporter (IMO- 9176395) were loaded at the port of Mumbai in India on September 10 and are destined for UN peacekeeping forces in Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. The ship, which has made several runs between Kenya, Japan, Dubai and India over the last few months, has been under Interpol watch for several months on suspicion of various illegal activities.
The vessel was raided and cordoned off on arrival at the port of Mombasa last Thursday by special units from the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF), the police counter-terrorism squad, Interpol, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Kenyan intelligence. The services were acting on an Interpol tip-off the ship had loaded a consignment of weapons and drugs while docked at the Jebel Ali Port in Dubai before it loaded the UN vehicles in Mumbai.
The security agents and the Kenyan Ports Authority (KPA) began searching the vessel on Friday but only discovered the contraband on Sunday. Its nature and quantity had not been disclosed by Monday as the search continued. Local media reports quoted intelligence services sources saying there are at least three wagons containing drugs and weapons recovered so far.
Mombasa Regional Police Commander Francis Wanjohi said acting on a tip-off 80% of the vessel including upper decks, lower decks, storage tanks and bridge sections was searched in a slow and thorough cargo inspection.
“We received intelligence reports from an international privatesecurity firm that the vessel is carrying dangerous cargo. That is why elite security teams stormed the port. We want to ascertain the contents of the cargo and we have already scoured 80% of the ship. The agencies are taking no chances,” Wanjohi told a press conference in Mombasa.
Kenyan Police Service (KPS) spokesman Charles Owino declined to comment saying they will only release a full statement when the operation is completed. The Norwegian operators of the ship, Hoegh Autoliners, confirmed the detention of vessel saying the Filipino crew is co-operating fully with the agencies involved.
If confirmed, the MV Hoegh Transporter will be the third ship to bust for a major drug running operation into Kenya recently after an Iranian vessel, the MV Bushehr was found with 377kg of heroin. It was blown up by the Kenyan navy in August 2014. Last month, the Kenyan Navy blew up a Singapore-registered luxury yacht, the MV Baby Iris, after heroin worth an estimated Sh20 million was found aboard.