Law enforcement officers in The Gambia discovered nearly three tonnes of cocaine in a salt shipment from Ecuador, its drugs agency said Friday, in the tiny West African country’s largest-ever seizure.
Officers searching a container in the port of the capital Banjul on Thursday found 118 bags of the illegal white powder, which were labelled as industrial salt, according to a statement from The Gambia’s Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEAG).
The container was part of a consignment of four containers originating from the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil.
Lamin Gassama, DLEAG’s intelligence director, told AFP that the 2.9 tonnes (6,400 pounds) represented the largest ever drugs haul in The Gambia — a poor nation of some two million people, and the smallest on mainland Africa.
He added that the seizure was worth approximately $88.5 million.
In its statement, The Gambia’s drugs agency said that local law enforcement is searching for the consignment’s owner, a 37-year-old French national named Banta Keita.
West Africa is an important transit region for cocaine trafficked from South America into Europe, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Seizure of the narcotic across the African continent rose from 1.2 tonnes in 2015 to 5.6 tonnes in 2018, the agency said in a report in June.