- Guinea-Bissau's attorney general Luis Manuel Cabral claims to have received death threats amid his probe into a new drugs scandal in the West African state. The country has emerged a major transit country for narcotics en route to Europe.
The probe follows a seizure of 500 kilograms of drugs from an executive jet, which landed at the country's international airport from South America earlier this month, causing a stand-off between soldiers and police.
Mr Cabral said high-ranking political figures as well as senior personnel in the military and security forces did not want his investigation to continue. But Guinea-Bissau's armed forces have refuted allegations of its involvement in the scam.
"We are facing a total obstruction, with death threats to try and stop the investigation from going forward," Mr Cabral said
The impoverished and politically instable country has become a major hub for cocaine traffickers with smugglers said to be operating with almost total impunity, aided by rampant corruption in public administration. The UN estimates that at least 50 tonnes of cocaine are shipped through the West African region every year.
International law enforcement agencies, which are of the opinion that officials in Guinea-Bissau are party to the drug dealings, said they would closely monitor the increasing drug trafficking as they try to take steps to stem the flow of cocaine through the West Africa region.
At least five people including three Venezuelan nationals have been arrested since the seizure on Monday last week.
Executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said West Africa's drug trafficking problem is still relatively small compared with that of West Asia, but said it should be rooted out before it gets out of control.
"States that we seldom hear about, such as Guinea-Bissau and neighbouring Guinea, are at risk of being captured by drug cartels in collusion with corrupt forces in government and the military," said the director's statement.
The statement further emphasised that containing drug threat will not be easy, as poverty remains the biggest problem in Guinea-Bissau; a country which is also one of worst performers on human development index.
There have been concerns by regional and international bodies that Guinea-Bissau runs a risk being taken over by drug cartels and becoming a "narco-state", and analysts claim the West African state is failing to confront the problem due to lack of resources.
Guinea-Bissau has been regarded as a soft touch for smugglers as its police lack funding and basic equipment, making them no match for well-armed and powerful international drugs-smuggling networks with access to planes and speedboats.
Drugs by now have become a general security issue in West Africa with narco-dollars altering already weak economies of the region. It is estimated that in countries like Guinea Bissau, the value of the drugs being trafficked is greater than the country's entire national income.
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