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Gambian ‘leisure’ boat arrested with cocaine in Senegal DLEAG says report unfounded

Gambian 'leisure' boat arrested with cocaine in Senegal DLEAG says report unfounded

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By Lamin Cham

An investigative piece by prominent Senegalese journalist, Pape Aly Niang has alleged that a boat from The Gambia was recently arrested by Senegalese marines with two tonnes of cocaine transferred into it from another boat.

According to the piece, the boat had been docked at the Denton Bridge for about three weeks prior to its arrest at sea after arriving from Guinea Bissau.

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While in The Gambia, the journalist reported that the boat was repainted from blue to white, disguised and advertised as a leisure boat.

“The boat was brought to Banjul by Turkish engineers with the help of some Gambians and controlled by two Lebanese nationals who later fell out with the Turkish crew and replaced them with two Senegalese crew,” the reported said.

It further alleged that after repainting the boat, its Lebanese controllers and their Gambian contacts registered it as a leisure boat in partnership with a local Gambian fishing company.

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“They ran advertisements in the form of flyers depicting images of the boat as a leisure boat for about three weeks before setting sail one day. But unknowing to them, all their activities were being monitored and videoed in Banjul and so when they set sail, they were already on the radar of anti-drug investigators who continued to monitor them at sea until another boat appeared and leveled with them and transferred two tonnes of cocaine into the boat from Denton Bridge.

At this point the investigators, Europeans, alerted the Senegalese marines who rushed to the scene and arrested both boats and their crews,” the report revealed.

According to the report, the entire operation in Banjul was being supervised by a top official in The Gambia who drives a four-wheel Mitsubishi. The journalist said many names of big people have been linked to the boat’s operations in The Gambia and would be released in due course.

However, on Sunday, the Gambian authorities refuted the allegations in the report as false.

A statement from the Drug Law Enforcement Agency on the matter reads:

“The Gambia Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (DLEAG) learnt with dismay, false and misleading information circulating on major social media platforms by a notoriously mischievous Senegalese journalist, Pape Aly Niang on the circumstances leading to the seizure of two tonnes and 26kg of cocaine by the Senegalese authorities on 17th October, 2021.

“Contrary to Niang’s false narrative, on 18th October, 2021, Office Central de Repression du Trafic Illicite de Stupefiants du Senegal (OCRTIS), our Senegalese counterparts in the fight against illicit drugs, shared information with us based on the existing MoU among DLEAG, OCRTIS and Policia Judiciaria da Guinea Bissau.

“An investigation was immediately opened to locate one Mr Muhamad Abdallah, the suspected organiser of the consignment. A guesthouse (Aisha’s Apartment Residence) where Mr Abdallah allegedly lodged was raided and thoroughly searched with no traces of either Abdullah or associates.  However, the guesthouse manager confirmed that Mr Abdallah and two others left The Gambia in the early hours of 18th October, 2021.

“In our continuing investigation, the proprietor of Torodo Fishing Company, the local Gambian agent handling the registration of the boat named La Rosa was invited for questioning on 21st October, 2021.  According to the agent, Mr Abdallah deceived him into believing that he wanted to use the boat for leisure river transport targeting mainly tourists. The Gambian agent was contracted to decorate the boat and prepare flyers to advertise the launching of a maiden river trip. The agent had also started the registration and licensing process of the boat with The Gambia Maritime Administration. Before the documentation was completed, Mr Abdallah authorised Captain Foday Marrah, a Sierra Leone national, to navigate the boat without prior notification of the agent.

“When the agent enquired the whereabouts of the boat only days later, Mr Abdallah who is not a resident of The Gambia, told him it had a breakdown around the sandbank and was being repaired.

“Therefore, Senegalese journalist Pape Aly Niang’s claims that a senior Gambian personality supervised the boat maintenance are meritless lies that cannot be substantiated. We ask all those who may have come across Niang’s report to see it as a purely imaginary tale by an errant reporter desperate to gain attention.

Significantly, on Saturday 31st October, 2021, the DLEAG’s director of “Intelligence and International Cooperation, the director of OCRTIS, the director general of the Judicial Police of Senegal and deputy director Policia Judiciaria of Bissau had a virtual meeting to share information and strategise on this matter and the way forward.

“We hereby assure Gambians that our country has one of the strongest drug interdiction regimes in Africa backed by robust accountability mechanisms.”

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