NIAMEY (Reuters) – Police in northern Niger have seized more than 200 kg of cocaine worth around $8.7 million that was being transported in the local mayor’s official truck, two police sources said on Monday.
The mayor and his driver, who were in the vehicle at the time, were arrested with 199 bricks of cocaine at a checkpoint on the road heading north out of the desert trading hub of Agadez on Sunday, the sources said.
A statement from Niger’s Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Drug Trafficking (OCRTIS) confirmed that there had been a record seizure of more than 200 kg of cocaine in Agadez, but did not give details.
West Africa, most often a transit route for illegal drugs on the way from South America to Europe, has registered a series of record busts in recent years.
Senegal seized more than two tonnes of pure cocaine from a ship off its Atlantic coast in October, and Gambian authorities seized nearly 3 tonnes last January from a shipment originating in Ecuador.
After 17 tonnes of cannabis resin worth around $37 million were seized in Niger last May, Interpol’s drug unit coordinator Jan Drapal told Reuters that drug kingpins were sending larger shipments in response to increasing European demand.
(Reporting by David Lewis and Boureima Balima; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Nick Macfie)