By Ousman A. Marong
Officials of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEAG) are currently hunting for one Banta Keita a Gambian holding French nationality for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of over D4.5 billion worth of suspected cocaine into the country through the port of Banjul.
According to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of DLEAG, Lamin Saidy-Bah, they on Thursday intercepted and seized the suspected shipment of cocaine.
Speaking to Mamos Media via telephone, Saidy-Bah revealed that the bags contained suspected bags of cocaine, labeled “Sal Industrial”.
“The 118 bags weighed about two tonnes, 952 kilograms, 850 grams and they were seized from container number SUDU7531754 which was part of a consignment of four containers originating from Ecuador,” he remarked.
He further revealed that three of the containers originated from Guayaquil port in Ecuador and they were transported by Maersk Line Shipping Company. He said the containers were trans-shipped through the port of Algeciras in Spain before proceeding to Banjul. He however said that while the forth container also originated from Guayaquil port in Ecuador, but it was trans-shipped through Amtwerp, Belgium, then Las Palmas, Spain and finally arrived at the Banjul ports on 27th December 2020. He added that all the four containers were shipped by ECU WORLDWIDE ECUADOR SA and consigned to Bollore Transport and Logistics as their local partner.
Saidy-Bah said the Bill of Lading for the consignment was issued by ECU WORLDWIDE to the actual consignee (CIRCUIT LONG TRADING CLT (Ltd) with one Mr. Sherif Njie as the contact person.
“On Monday 4th January 2020, a physical search was conducted on container number TGCU 212 7190, but was found to be containing only salt. The search continued on Thursday, 7th January 2021 on the remaining three containers, resulting in the discovery of the 118 bags containing suspected cocaine in container number SUDU7531754,” he said.
Saidy-Bah added that initial findings suggested that the containers belong to one Banta Keita, holder of a French passport #17CE91360. According to the passport biodata, he was born on 3rd January 1984. He said Banta is a resident of Fajara M Section in the Kanifing Municipality.
“Mr. Sheriff Njie is currently in custody helping in the investigation while the hunt for Mr. Banta Keita continues.
This is said to be the largest quantity of suspected drugs ever seized in The Gambia, and one of the largest ever to be intercepted in West Africa, which has increasingly become a transit point for shipping heroin and cocaine into the region. It is estimated to have a street value of about D4.5 Billion. It is yet another confirmation that The Gambia like some other West African States, continues to being used as storage and transit route for cocaine by international organized criminal groups.
“Certainly, these drugs are not destined for the Gambia, thus they are not for local consumption,” he added.