Prominent Benin businessman and former presidential candidate Sebastien Ajavon was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison in connection with a haul of 18 kg of cocaine found in a shipping container in 2016.
Charges were dropped in 2016 against Ajavon, who ran for president that year and currently lives in France. The charges were later taken up by a different court.
Ajavon long denied charges of drug trafficking, dismissing them as a political hit job by President Patrice Talon, who defeated him in the 2016 election.
Ajavon’s legal team on Thursday described the ruling as a “premeditated decision” it said it would fight in court.
Maritime police discovered the haul at the port of Cotonou in a container destined for one of Ajavon’s companies.
West Africa has for over a decade been a transit point for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe. Improved maritime policing has helped reduce the volume of cocaine passing through the region.