Pubdate: Sun, 24 Sep 2006
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2006 Nation Newspapers
Author: Stephen Muiruri


An increasing number of Kenyans are being used as  couriers for 
international drug syndicates which have  found a ready market in 
Europe and the US.

Most of the Kenyan mules - couriers who hide the drug  on themselves 
or their luggage, or even ingest it -  have been arrested trying to 
smuggle in heroin instead  of the more expensive cocaine.

Cocaine has a much higher value than heroin in the  local and 
international markets. A kilo of cocaine  fetches Sh5 million, while 
that of heroin goes for  Sh1.5 million. Couriers who have been 
arrested include  models, airline stewards and stewardesses and 
business  people who fall prey to the high returns they are 
guaranteed if they deliver the consignments.

Between January 2003 and September 1, this year, 233  Kenyans and 85 
non-Kenyans were held for trafficking in  heroin, say Kenyan police. 
Tanzanians constitute the  highest number of foreigners seized with 
33, followed  by Nigerians 14 and Ghanaians 11.

Ugandans, Seychellois, Somalis, Congolese, South  Africans and 
Mauritanians are the others arrested as  they tried to smuggle in 
heroin through Jomo Kenyatta,  Moi and Eldoret International airports.

But the amounts so far impounded pale into  insignificance before the 
1.1 tonnes of heroin worth  Sh6.4 billion seized in a Malindi beach 
house stuffed  in a speedboat and in a Nairobi warehouse in December 2004.

Considered to be the biggest seizure of heroin in  Africa, the haul 
was being repackaged for onward  transmission to the Netherlands.

Apart from the haul which has since been destroyed, 119  kg of heroin 
worth more than Sh179 million was  impounded from couriers at the 
Kenyan airports in the  past three years.

During the same period, cocaine with an estimated  street value of 
Sh6.7 billion was impounded and 38  people held, 19 of them Kenyan mules.

Police Spokesman Gideon Kibunja attributed the growing  number of 
Kenyans arrested to foreign couriers avoiding  the country's airports 
because of the stringent  anti-drug trafficking measures being implemented.

"Most West African drug traffickers have been shying  away from our 
airports because of the stringent  measures by anti-narcotics police 
and customs  officers," he said. "Many Kenyans have turned to the 
narcotics trade because they think they attract less  suspicion from 
Kenyan security personnel. They are very  wrong. All nationals are 
subjected to the same security  check-ups."

Mr Kibunjah said most of people arrested with drugs are  couriers who 
are only carrying them for other people.  None of those arrested had 
given names of the people  using them to traffic drugs which would 
help police  with investigations.

"Most of those arrested often say they were given some  luggage by 
somebody with instructions that they be met  on arrival in Kenya," he 
says. "Once the persons  waiting to receive the luggage realises the 
courier has  been arrested, they disappear into thin air."

Many couriers serving long prison terms say they were  given clothes 
with buttons packed with cocaine, shoes  or even suitcases with false 
bottoms by newly-found  friends who request them to carry the stuff 
through  customs.

The couriers do not know who is supposed to meet them,  but are 
informed that they will be paid a substantial  amount of money after 
delivering the package.

People waiting to meet the couriers disappear when they  realise they 
have been caught.

Mr Kibunja said that while most Kenyan mules prefer to  conceal the 
drugs in their luggage, Tanzanians, West  Africans and Pakistanis 
swallow pellets stuffed with  the powder.

His claim that most of the drug being trafficked is for  use 
elsewhere in the region, Europe and America  contradicts findings of 
the United Nations Office on  Drugs and Crime.
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