The head of Guinea-Bissau’s migration agency was arrested for suspected involvement in cocaine trafficking, police said, one of the most senior officials in the West African country detained in connection with drug smuggling.
Guinea-Bissau is a major crossing point for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe. Experts and diplomats say some military and political officials are heavily involved in the trade.
Migration agency boss Colonel Alassana Diallo was taken into custody last Friday, accused of taking 83 capsules of cocaine for himself after a seizure at the Bissau airport, said Domingos Monteiro, deputy director of the judicial police.
Monteiro said after the drugs were seized by the judicial police in March, national guard soldiers burst into a police station to free the suspected dealer and take the cocaine.
Soldiers said they were acting on orders from their boss, Monteiro said. At the time, Diallo was head of criminal investigations for the national guard.
Diallo’s lawyer, Carlitos Diedhiou, confirmed his client’s arrest. He said Diallo would be questioned by prosecutors.
Military officers in Guinea-Bissau often oppose efforts by judicial police to crack down on smuggling and intervened to free suspected traffickers.
A former navy chief pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiring to import narcotics into the US after he was nabbed in a sting operation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Guinea-Bissau police made two of their largest ever cocaine seizures last year, including a 1,8 tonne haul in September. In April, a court convicted 12 people of smuggling the drugs, but two alleged kingpins remain at large.