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Viewing cable 08CONAKRY184, SEIZED DRUGS FINALLY INCINERATED...OR WERE THEY?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08CONAKRY184 2008-03-06 14:02 2010-12-25 21:09 SECRET Embassy Conakry
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRY #0184/01 1331241
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 121241Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY CONAKRY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2509
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 0069
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0535
S E C R E T CONAKRY 000184

SIPDIS

DEA / PARIS FOR R. HOUSTON / B. HALEY / T. HEDRICK
DEA / LAGOS FOR S. GAYE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2018
TAGS: ASEC GV PGOV DEA PREL SNAR
SUBJECT: SEIZED DRUGS FINALLY INCINERATED...OR WERE THEY?

REF: A. CONAKRY 00148
B. CONAKRY 00155
C. PARIS 00838
D. CONAKRY 00166

Classified By: ARSO Elizabeth Esparza for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY:  On April 11, 2008, Guinean police seized a
shipment of cocaine, exact quantity unknown, and detained six
suspects believed to be of Latin American origin (Reftel A,
B).  All USG requests for additional information regarding
the details of the seizure or the suspects have gone
unanswered (Reftel C).  The mission focused its efforts to
ensure the destruction of the drugs and the result of these
efforts proves that corrupt elements of the government are in
full control.  Exactly one month after the seizure,
Ambassador and ARSO attended the alleged incineration of 390
kilos of cocaine.  The incineration was a farce that fooled
no one and highlighted the possible complicity of the Guinean
Minister of Interior and Security and high-level police
officials.  END SUMMARY.

------------------------
A LONG-ANTICIPATED EVENT
------------------------

2.  (S) Over a ten-day period, the Mission in collaboration
with the British Ambassador made several unsuccessful
attempts to discuss the transparent destruction of the drugs.
Finally, on May 2, 2008, the US and UK Ambassadors met with
the Minister of Interior and Security and were given
well-rehearsed assurances of the GOG,s commitment to
combating drug trafficking and an invitation to view the
drugs, destruction (Reftel D).  The incineration initially
planned for May 7 and rescheduled for May 9, finally took
place on May 10, 2008.

3. (U) GOG officials in attendance included Director of OCAD
Thermite Mara, Deputy Director of OCAD Zakaria Cisse, Police
Director General Sekou Bangoura, Police Controller General
Madifing Diane, President of the National Committee Against
Drug Trafficking (CNLD) Gare, Deputy General Secretary of
CNLD Aguibou Tall, and approximately three dozen OCAD agents.
The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Interior and
Security were also present.

-------------------------
EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES
-------------------------

4. (S) After consultations with DEA Paris, Ambassador
requested permission to take a random sample of the cocaine
for testing purposes.  Controller General Diane automatically
agreed, causing an immediate backlash from Director General
Bangoura and OCAD Director Mara.  Director General Bangoura
found several excuses, to include concern over Ambassador and
ARSO,s health and safety.  He also explained that the
cocaine had been treated with chemicals, rendering it
useless.  Director General Bangoura, in his usual arrogant
and condescending fashion, refused to address the Ambassador,
claiming that this was not a matter of diplomacy, but police
business.  OCAD Director Mara,s enraged response included
direct accusations of infringement upon Guinean sovereignty.
This heated exchange took place in a very public setting and
was documented by the private press.

5. (S) Controller General Diane reports directly to Minister
of Interior and Security Keita.  OCAD Director Mara reports
to Director General Bangoura, who reports to Controller
General Diane.  The interaction between these officials
demostrates an obvious disregard for rank and seniority,
which is especially concerning given that respect for
hierarchy is usually the norm in Guinean culture.  This begs
the questions, "who's in charge?".

---------------------
THEATRICAL PRODUCTION
---------------------

6. (U) Upon the arrival of Minister of Interior and Security
Keita and Minister of Justice Paulette Kourouma, the
Ambassador,s request for a random sample of the cocaine was
quickly denied.  The pile was immediately doused with
gasoline and ceremoniously lit on fire by the Minister of
Justice.  The President of the National Committee Against
Drug Trafficking was very dramatic in announcing the
destruction of 160 kilos of marijuana, 390 kilos of cocaine
and 43 boxes of pharmaceutical products (later explained to
be expired ibuprofen).  The destroyed narcotics were
reportedly valued at 6.5 million dollars.

7.  (S) After the incineration, ARSO was permitted to take a
sample from a pre-designated package of cocaine.  The OCAD
Deputy Director, the only individual that was allowed to get
near the pile of narcotics, handpicked the package.  On May
6, 2008, RSO FSN Investigator received a call from XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX, who in the past weeks has provided RSO
with sensitive information on the drug seizure (Reftel B).
XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that the GoG planned to burn packages of
flour.  ARSO is unable to prove that the cocaine was in fact
substituted with flour; however, the GoG,s lack of
cooperation and vehement rejection to a request for random
sampling raises troubling questions about the GoG's interest
in transparency.  And as the Ambassador,s driver very keenly
observed, "I know the smell of burning marijuana, and I
didn,t smell anything."  The entire event was a theatrical
production.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (S) The event was a real eye-opener and a facade.  The
incineration was a ridiculous attempt by the GoG to prove
that a law enforcement campaign against narcotics exists.  If
anything was proven, it was that the traffickers' influence
has reached the highest levels of the government.  There is
an obvious fracture within the security forces, and only a
handful of officials appear to be fighting to carry out
legitimate duties.  The clear reluctance and open animosity
displayed by all the senior Ministry of Interior and Security
(MIS) officials and the diffident response of the Ministers
to the Ambassador's request suggest complicity at the highest
levels of the Ministry.  The silver-lining of the event is
that the heated debate and ridiculous protestation by MIS to
the Ambassador's request for a random sampling were witnessed
and recorded by elements of the Guinean media (state-owned
and independent).

CARTER