A crackdown on cocaine smuggling by Guinea’s military junta has netted the son of the former president and a string of senior police officers, revealing the extent to which South American drug cartels have penetrated the highest levels of government in parts of west Africa.
Matthew Green, West Africa Correspondent
From his hospital bed, Ousmane Conté, the son of the late president, Lansana Conté, confessed on state television to being involved in trafficking cocaine.
“Everyone who knows me knows I’m not a liar,” he told his interrogators. “It’s true that I am mixed up in this drugs business, but I’m not the ringleader.”
The broadcast would have been unthinkable a few months ago when Lansana Conté, the suspect’s father, was preparing to celebrate a quarter of a century in power.
Moussa Dadis Camara, the army captain who led a putsch hours after Conté’s death on December 23, has been ostracised by the outside world. At home, he has sought legitimacy by vowing to drive out the drugs barons and subjecting suspects to televised interrogations, sometimes personally acting as inquisitor.
Guinea is one of a number of west African countries that have witnessed an explosive growth in drug smuggling in recent years as South American cartels buy powerful friends to help ship cocaine to a growing market in Europe. Western law enforcement agencies fear the huge amounts of money involved could incubate new “narco-states”, run for the benefit of gangsters, on the European Union’s doorstep.
Four senior policemen, including the former head of the Central Anti-Drugs Office and a former director of Interpol Guinea, were among those arrested this week. Ousmane Conté, an army officer, is the highest-profile member of the late president’s circle to have been apprehended. The cause of his stay in hospital was unclear.
Human rights groups are concerned about extra-judicial tactics.