Africa

Ghana's NPP calls for inquiry after London cocaine bust

A drug prevention poster id seen outside Kotoka International Airport, in Accra 12 July 2007 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ghana has been raising awareness about the drug trade at its international airport

Ghana's opposition has called for a parliamentary inquiry into allegations that a suspected cocaine trafficker had access to the presidential lounge at the country's main airport.

The alleged trafficker was arrested in the UK, while three officials have been charged in Ghana.

The case has gripped Ghanaians, as the opposition and governing party trade accusations of drug-dealing.

West Africa is a major transit-point for smuggling cocaine to Europe.

The BBC's Sammy Darko in Accra says the alleged cocaine bust has increasingly assumed a political dimension.

Presidential denial

On Tuesday, Dominic Nitiwul - a senior member of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) - appeared in parliament with three bags of rice, weighing around 13kg (28lbs).

Mr Nitiwul questioned how a similar amount of cocaine could have evaded customs and security officials at Accra's Kotoka International Airport to reach London's Heathrow Airport where the alleged trafficker, Nayele Ametefe, was arrested on 9 November.

Image copyright bbc

The government has denied any involvement in what the local media has dubbed "the cocaine scandal".

President John Mahama has also strongly denied reports that Ms Ametefe was linked to his family.

Three foreign affairs officials have been charged with aiding and abetting Ms Ametefe by allegedly letting her use the airport's "VVIP lounge", a reference to the presidential lounge, our correspondent says.

They have been remanded in custody.

Another nine people, including three Lebanese and an Indian national, were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the case, our reporter says.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ghana's President John Mahama says his family has no links to the alleged drug trafficker

Mr Nitiwul kept up pressure on the government on Wednesday by calling for a bipartisan parliamentary committee to investigate the conduct of officials.

"How did it become possible for the [alleged] cocaine lady to use the VVIP lounge of Kotoka International Airport? By what arrangement was she [allegedly] able to get the cocaine into the plane without being detected by all the security operatives at the airport?" Mr Nitiwul said, at a press conference.

West Africa has emerged as a busy route for drugs from Latin America and Asia to Europe, with cartels taking advantage of the region's poverty and weak border controls.

In June 2013, the ex-security chief at the airport, Solomon Adelaquaye, was charged in the US with conspiring to smuggle Afghan heroin to New York.

He was arrested along with two Nigerians and a Colombian following a joint US-Ghanaian investigation, officials said at the time.

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