A consignment of 277 kg of herbal cannabis destined for the UK was found in the Aviance air cargo village at Accra airport in late June. A few days later the team at Lome intercepted a courier coming in from N’djamena, Chad en route to the US with 8 kg of khat. In each case the skill set, experience, networks and equipment provided by the AIRCOP project were indispensable for the success of the operation.
The cannabis seizure in Ghana, was the result of a profiling exercise by the JAITF. Profiling is a critical methodology in airport security and one of the first training activities performed by AIRCOP. The team in Lome, Togo, arrested the khat courier after receiving an alert from the Belgian customs intelligence services. Raising the capacity of West African agencies to participate in international operations is one of the main objectives of the Cocaine Route Programme. The two successes demonstrate that the investment in raising the capacity of law enforcement agencies in the Cocaine Route partner countries is yielding results.
For those who are not familiar with khat (Catha edulis), a naturally occurring stimulant produced mainly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, it is worth noting that this is not an internationally controlled substance. Following a lenghty investigation the World Health Organisation determined in 2006 that the adverse health effects did not merit legal restrictions. Several North American and European countries have decided to impose controls anyway, even against the advice of scientific advisory boards such as the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. As there is an underlying demand for khat mainly from immigrant communities an underground trade has developed to take advantage of the large price differentials. To what extent this trade is related to organised crime is not clear.