Envoys held over cocaine Friday, 25 June 2010 08:20 By Devotha John THE CITIZEN Corporal Wamba Msafiri displays the purported diplomatic bag that contained narcotics at the Julius Nyerere International Airport. PHOTO/SILVAN KIWALE Police are holding two West Africans who were arrested in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday night, in what the anti-narcotics boss described as a major breakthrough in the fight against a new wave of drug trafficking by couriers masquerading as diplomats. The foreigners, a Liberian and a Guinean, who had presented themselves to the Immigration officials as diplomats, were found with 31 kilogrammes of cocaine in two bags, labelled diplomatic, and allegedly meant for the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Anti-narcotics personnel at the arrivals lounge of the Julius Nyerere International Airport pounced on the suspects before they made their way out and detained them for questioning. They had used diplomatic letters allegedly issued by their governments to avoid scrutiny of their cargo by Customs and Immigration officials. The two had arrived from Johannesburg at 7.30 in the evening on transit to Arusha. The drugs, whose street value, was estimated to be between $372,000 (about Sh520million) and $1million (about Sh1.4billion), is the second largest haul in the country this year. Their arrest comes hot on the heels of the seizure in Nairobi two weeks ago of a Ugandan woman, who had also posed as a United Nations official, transporting two boxes of goods meant for the UN office in Kampala. But on scrutinising her supposed diplomatic cargo, police found 21kgs of cocaine valued at Sh1.4 billion. In March, police in Tanga arrested an Iranian national and his four suspected local accomplices with 95kg of heroin worth a staggering Sh25 billion. This is the largest ever consignment of illicit drugs seized in the recent years. Yesterday in Dar es Salaam, police identified the West African suspects as 52-year-old Diaka Brama Kaba, a Guinean national, who resides in Conakry, and Mr Abubakary Ndijane (50), a Liberian, who lives in Monrovia. Mr Kaba was said to have been carrying 17 kilogrammes of cocaine, while Mr Ndijane was allegedly found with 14 kilogrammes. The head of the Anti-Narcotics Police Unit, Mr Geoffrey Nzowa, told a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the two were carrying the drugs in two bags labelled diplomatic. Also inscribed on the two bags were the words, Travail Justice Solidarity: The Republic of Guinea, Conakry, and numbered 001 and 002. Mr Nzowa, a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, said police at the airport became suspicious when the two diplomats refused to be checked by security personnel before exiting the airport, shortly after arriving from Johannesburg aboard a South African Airline flight. The anti-narcotics boss said that on checking the mens travel documents, it was found that they had started their journey in Trinidad and Tobago, and go on to Panama, Brazil and South Africa, before flying to Dar es Salaam. The Ugandan suspect had also used a similar route, flying from Lima in Peru to Brazil and onto to South Africa, before landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, where she was arrested with her diplomatic cargo Yesterday, police in Dar were quick to note an emerging trend, pointing to the apparent similarity in the routes and methods of the drug running suspects in the two countries. Mr Nzowa said the suspects caused a stir at the airport, as they declared that they would only be willing to be subject themselves to a sniffer dog test or the use of a detector. They appeared confident that the dogs and the detector would not notice the cocaine because the drugs were covered with cocoa. The anti-narcotics boss said the suspects had stamped diplomatic immunity certificates, to ensure that they passed through the various airports without being searched. On interrogation, Mr Nzowa said, the suspects claimed they were heading to the ICTR offices in Arusha to deliver a special message. When the police checked with the ICTR officials to verify the information given by the two men, they drew as blank. In fact, Mr Nzowa added, the ICTR officials denied any knowledge of them and any items that were to be delivered to them. He said Mr Kaba was traveling on passport No. R0003855, while his colleagues travel document is No. D/003893. The police were making frantic efforts to contact the nearest embassies of the countries of the two suspects before charging them in court. Guinea and Liberia have no embassies in Tanzania. Following the March seizure by police of the 95 kilogrammes of heroine, whose street value was estimated at over $18.6 million, and the arrest of six suspects, who included an Iranian national, Tanzanian police were showered with praise from various quarters. The United States Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Alfonso Lenhardt, speaking in Dar es Salaam, said the seizure of the narcotics and arrest of the suspects should serve as an inspiration to the region to step up the campaign against drug traffickers. Traffickers know no borders in their pursuit of criminal profit and will use what they consider the easiest conduit to smuggle narcotics across the world, he said. The ambassador said the Tanzanian police had with that single achievement sent a strong signal to the international drug gangs that they would not be allowed to use the country as a transport corridor for their deadly business. According to the Tanga Regional Police Commander, Mr Simon Siro, two of the suspects, Mr Bakari Kileo Mambo (75) and Mr Kileo Bakari (34), are a father and his son. The other suspects were identified as Iranian Mohamed Ali, who is 30, Mr Yahya Zumo (30), Mr Salum Mohamed (35) and Mr Said Ibrahimu (33). They have since been charged in court. Mr Siro said the Iranian arrived in Tanzania on March 1, through the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, before reportedly linking up with the other suspects. The arrest of the Iranian national and his five alleged accomplices was seen as a major breakthrough by the anti-narcotics police in the fight against cartels using the country as a transit point. Security personnel are concerned that the country has in recent years become a narcotics transit corridor to Asia, Europe and the Americas.