Gambia jails eight foreigners for 50 years for drugs


A court in Gambia jailed eight foreign nationals for 50 years each for trying to traffic 2.1 tonnes of cocaine into Europe, worth about $130 million and one of the largest consignments seized in recent years.

Four Venezuelans, two Dutchmen, one Nigerian and one Mexican were jailed. One of the Venezuelans died three days ago in Banjul’s Mile 2 prison of what the prison’s chief medical officer said were natural causes. No further details were given.

West Africa has become a major transit point for Latin American narcotics as smugglers take advantage of generally weak surveillance in the vast region. Gambian police made the seizure in June 2009 with the help of British detectives, Reuters reports.
“I am going to send a signal to other drug traffickers that Gambia is a no-go area for them,” magistrate Lamin Tabally told the court as he passed sentence on the eight men.

The convicts were arrested in a fishing village in Gambia. The cocaine was found in a bunker concealed behind a false wall in a warehouse used by a fishing company.

Gambia and its white-sand Atlantic beaches are a popular holiday destination, especially for British tourists, but is one of the poorest countries in the world with an average income per head of $440 in 2010, according to the World Bank.

President Yahya Jammeh, who has declared a “zero-tolerance” policy on drugs, is running for a fourth term in November.

Analysts have said increased drugs trafficking through West African states such as Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Liberia may further destabilise a region notorious for coups and rebellions.