Africa

Wikileaks: Ghana President Atta Mills fears drugs money

A security official at Ghana's Kotoka International Airport in 2007 in front of drug prevention posters
Image caption UK customs officials are reportedly frustrated Ghana's efforts to fight trafficking at Accra airport

Ghana's leader has said he is concerned that elements of his government are compromised by drugs traffickers, a US cable released by Wikileaks says.

Another cable says President John Atta Mills requested airport drug-screening equipment for his personal entourage.

West Africa has become a major transit hub for smuggling cocaine from Latin America to Europe.

The latest diplomatic disclosures also reveal US fears about the failure of West African leaders to tackle it.

The correspondence released by the whistle-blowing Wikileaks and published in the UK's Guardian newspaper also show the frustration of British anti-drug smuggling officials with Ghanaian efforts.

"UK officials found packets of cocaine taped under passenger seats on a KLM flight before passengers boarded the plane," a US embassy cable from 2007 said.

President Mills took office in January 2009, promising to tackle the problem.

But according to a cable from June 2009, the president told the US ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, that he knew "elements of his government are already compromised and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there".

Four months later a senior UK customs official, Roland O'Hagan, told US diplomats that Ghana's president wanted his own entourage screened before leaving the country.

"According to O'Hagan, Mills wants these officials to be checked in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs," a November 2009 cable says.

"The itemizers... would be sensitive, portable screening devices that can detect the drug content in minuscule drops of human sweat after recent external contact or for up to three weeks after ingestion."

The UN drugs agency has said an estimated 60 tonnes of cocaine is trafficked every year through West Africa.

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