How Mombasa port became the world’s capital of drugs

Heroin seized during a past bust. France 24 TV reveals how immigrant crisis has birthed trafficking route through Kenya. [File, Standard]

Mombasa has been found to be a major drug trafficking hub and route for heroin and cocaine destined for Europe.

An investigative report by France 24 TV, filed by Jean Michel Renovic and Catharine Hamilton, showed how heroin and cocaine from Asia and Latin America transit through the Port of Mombasa before getting into Europe and Dubai.

The report, which aired on Friday, revealed that most of the heroin reaches the port of Mombasa through ships sailing in from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

According to the investigative report, the original routes of the Middle East and the Balkans are currently experiencing immigrant crises, which has turned Mombasa into a ‘safe’ destination for traffickers.

Being caught

‘Joey’, one of those interviewed, said he got paid 900 euros (Sh104,000) per delivery, and was not worried about his safety or being caught.

A second source, ‘David’,  said Europe provided the best market and that moving drugs from Mombasa to other foreign destinations was “easy” because one can get them easily.

It is estimated that the value of drugs the trafficking syndicate deals with is worth 100 million euros (Sh11.6 billion) a year.

The report attributes the new route to the poorly monitored Kenyan coast, which allows traffickers to smuggle drugs into the country using small boats and yachts.

The porous border of Lunga Lunga makes it easy for traffickers to smuggle drugs into Mombasa from neighbouring Tanzania.

The report further reveals how the situation at the port has also led to an increase in the use of heroin and cocaine in Mombasa.

And once the drugs are within Kenya’s territory, smugglers have several options at their disposal. They could either take a plane straight to Europe or Dubai, or move the drugs to Nairobi for onward transit to Europe and Dubai, or send their loot to South Africa or West Africa to use an even less obvious route.

In the report, one source describes how he is able to traffic heroin to Dubai aboard chartered planes. 

A 2018 report by the US’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) linked prominent politicians and businessmen with connections within the Government to a drug trafficking syndicate in Kenya. Reports indicate that following the extradition and sentencing of the Akasha brothers, Ibrahim and Baktash, new drug barons are stepping in to fill the gap.

The Akashas, Vijaygiri Goswami Indian and Gulam Hussein from Pakistan were extradited to the US on February 2017 to face drug-related charges. Baktash was sentenced to 25 years in prison, while his brother Ibrahim is awaiting sentencing in November.

Intercepted loot

The France 24 TV report puts into perspective the past seizure of several drug hauls in the high seas and in Mombasa.

In 2014, Kenya Navy officers intercepted a ship, MV Darya, christened Al-Noor, in the high seas with heroin worth more than Sh1.3 billion.

The ship had sailed in from Bushehr Port in Iran and was said to be destined for Zanzibar. The crew aboard included two Indian students, six Pakistanis, an Iranian and the captain, who died shortly after the ship was seized.

The Indian students were released after their embassy intervened.

The suspects indicated that their employer, whose whereabouts are unknown to date, had told them that what they were transporting was cement bound for Zanzibar.

In 2015, British Marines intercepted a yacht in Kenyan waters laden with heroin worth Sh28 million.

Ahmed Said Bakar, Clement Sege Bristol, Mohamed Bakari Mohamed, Sharifu Mzee Mohamed and Ahmed Hussein Salim were then charged with trafficking 2,028 grams of heroin worth Sh6.084 million.

The five suspects were also charged with trafficking 7,600 grams of heroin with a market value of Sh22.8 million concealed under the water tank of the yacht.

The yacht and its drugs haul were later blown up in the high seas on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s orders.

In March 2018, three Tanzanians were charged in a Mombasa law court with trafficking heroin worth more than Sh30 million.

Hussein Massoud Eid, Othhmani Hamisi Tinje and Mwenda Hamisi Mwenda were charged with trafficking 10.022 kilogrammes of heroin concealed in the false bottoms of three suitcases.

In March 6, 2018 a Kenyan hairdresser and a Ugandan were charged with trafficking heroin worth Sh9 million through Moi International Airport in Mombasa

And in 2018, Stephen Mang’ira, and four other suspects were arrested at Reef Hotel in Mombasa with heroin worth Sh1.6 million.