by Ben Taylor
Two seizures of heroin were made in Tanzanian coastal waters within the space of a few days in late January and early February. Firstly, the Canadian military vessel, HMCS Toronto, found 265 bags containing over 280kg of heroin on an Iranian dhow. A few days later, an Australian ship, HMAS Melbourne, found 201kg aboard another Iranian dhow said to be travelling between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The combined street value of the drugs found was estimated as a little over £500m.
These seizures follow smaller amounts of heroin and cocaine pellets confiscated at Tanzania’s international airports. Last year the government sacked four officials suspected of aiding drug traffickers to smuggle 150kg of drugs through the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam.
In December, Police at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) arrested two foreign nationals alleged to be carrying 12.7kg of drugs. Two west Africans were arrested before boarding flights to Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa respectively.
A Dar es Salaam resident was arrested in January at JNIA when attempting to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Macao, China. The woman was about to board her flight when she aroused the suspicion of anti-drugs personnel.
Later that same month, a man holding a Kenyan passport was caught by the special drugs task force carrying 131 pellets of cocaine. The head of the Anti-Drugs Unit said the man had tried to enter the country through JNIA from Brazil. He has yet to appear in court.
The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2013 reported that Kenya and Tanzania are becoming major transit points for drugs as the number of drug users is also increasing. The report said that drug trafficking in East Africa has increased five-fold since 2009, indicating traffickers preference for the region as a transit route for drugs from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the US and Europe.
(Guardian, Citizen, East African, Australian Associated Press).