Wikileaks Guinea, May 2008: The US Ambassador, The Prime Minister, The President’s Son and a Drug “Bonfire”

After determining that the President’s son, Ousmane Conte, was not the only high roller in Guinea trafficking drugs and that the thread ran deep inside the Guinean government, the US ambassador sends a cable to Washington in which he describes a comical smoke and mirrors show put on by the government to “destroy” a seized shipment of drugs.  Below is the pertinent excerpt.  If interested in the full article from the New York Times, click here.

From the New York Times:  “Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency,” December 26, 2010

(Sia Kambou/AFP-Getty; Jose Mendez/EPA; Ramin Talaie/EPA; Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Leaked cables reveal the Drug Enforcement Administration’s global reach, noting dealings with Lansana Kouyaté of Guinea, left, Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, center left, and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. Karen Tandy, right, the D.E.A.’s former administrator, discussed Afghan missions in the cables.


A May 2008 cable from Guinea described a kind of heart-to-heart conversation about the drug trade between the American ambassador, Phillip Carter III, and Guinea’s prime minister, Lansana Kouyaté. At one point, the cable said, Mr. Kouyaté “visibly slumped in his chair” and acknowledged that Guinea’s most powerful drug trafficker was Ousmane Conté, the son of Lansana Conté, then the president. (After the death of his father, Mr. Conté went to prison.)

A few days later, diplomats reported evidence that the corruption ran much deeper inside the Guinean government than the president’s son. In a colorfully written cable — with chapters titled “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses” and “Theatrical Production” — diplomats described attending what was billed as a drug bonfire that had been staged by the Guinean government to demonstrate its commitment to combating the drug trade.

Senior Guinean officials, including the country’s drug czar, the chief of police and the justice minister, watched as officers set fire to what the government claimed was about 350 pounds of marijuana and 860 pounds of cocaine, valued at $6.5 million.

In reality, American diplomats wrote, the whole incineration was a sham. Informants had previously told the embassy that Guinean authorities replaced the cocaine with manioc flour, proving, the diplomats wrote, “that narco-corruption has contaminated” the government of Guinea “at the highest levels.”

And it did not take the D.E.A.’s sophisticated intelligence techniques to figure out the truth. The cable reported that even the ambassador’s driver sniffed out a hoax.

“I know the smell of burning marijuana,” the driver said. “And I didn’t smell anything.”


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