Tema, Ghana - Officials of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) have made the largest seizure of cocaine in recent years at the Tema Harbour.
The drug, estimated to be 200 kg, with a street value of $12 million, was concealed in a 40-footer container filled with 1,946 boxes of shampoo imported from Bolivia in South America.
The owner of the drug is believed to be Chief Sunny Ekechukwu Benji Eke, a 53-year-old Nigerian businessman. He has been arrested together with another accomplice, James Elekechukwu (47), a second-hand clothing dealer in Accra.
Chief Eke was described by international law enforcement agencies as a notorious drug baron who had been involved in several drug seizures in Brazil and Bolivia.
According to the Deputy Executive Secretary of NACOB, Nii Lante Blankson, the success of the operation was the result of co-operation among the security agencies in the country.
He said in December last year, NACOB, through its foreign counterparts, received intelligence that a cargo said to contain a quantity of cosmetics was heading to the Tema Harbour from Bolivia and was suspected to contain some narcotic substances.
He said on January 29, 2013, the said cargo, which was shipped in a 40-footer container number MRK 257478-45 GI belonging to the MAESRK Shipping Lines and consigned to the De Consumables Lines Limited, docked at the Tema Harbour and officers of NACOB who were on standby immediately mounted surveillance on it.
After almost two weeks, a clearing agent arrived with the necessary documents to clear the goods and he was arrested to assist in investigations.
Nii Blankson said inspection of the documents revealed that the cargo was built to contain 22 pallets of assorted cosmetics but during physical examination, 1,946 cartons were found, with 33 of them containing 198 yellow bottles of cocaine, while 29 contained 174 green bottles of cocaine.
The container was later traced to Elekechukwu, who was arrested at his residence at Aplaku Junction, near Weija.
Upon interrogation, Elekechukwu told NACOB officials that the real owner of the goods was Chief Eke.
Elekechukwu said Chief Eke was his classmate and friend and that he [Elekechukwu] had been living in Ghana for the past 20 years, while Chief Eke had been visiting Ghana frequently for the past two years to conduct business.
Elekechukwu said anytime Chief Eke arrived in Ghana, he picked the chief up from the Kotoka International Airport and checked him into hotels.
He explained that in 2011, Chief Eke informed him about his desire to register a company in Ghana to sell cosmetic products, noting that he assisted the chief to register the De Consumables Company at the Registrar-General's Department using fake documents.
Elekechukwu said some time in December 2012, Chief Eke returned to Ghana, as usual, with import documents of his cargo of cosmetic products which he claimed was on the high seas and would arrive at the Tema Port some time in January 2013.
The two Nigerians then went to the Tema Harbour and handed over the documents to the clearing agent and advanced some money for the clearance of the goods and thereafter Chief Eke returned to Nigeria.
Mr Blankson said it took the NACOB over one week of controlled operation to lure Chief Eke back into the country for his arrest at the Accra Shopping Mall where he had scheduled a meeting with Elekechukwu and the clearing agent.
He had in his possession four Nigerian passports with different names.