Cape Town – Authorities in the West African country of Niger seized more than 200kg of cocaine from a local mayor’s car on Monday, local media reported on Wednesday.
Authorities said the seizure was Niger’s largest single haul of cocaine.
The mayor and his driver have since been arrested, said authorities, according to BBC News Africa.
According to the spokesperson for the Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Drug Trafficking (OCRTIS), Nana Aïchatou Ousmane Bako, the police were “on the trail of a quantity of drugs brought in from Mali which was about to be transported to Libya”.
Authorities estimate that the cocaine is worth around US$8.7 million that was being transported in the mayor’s official truck.
West Africa remains a popular transit route for illegal drugs on the way from South America to Europe, with the region registering a series of record busts in recent years.
According to reports, Senegal seized more than two tons of pure cocaine from a ship off its Atlantic coast in October, and Gambian authorities seized nearly three tons last January from a shipment originating in Ecuador.
According to the UN, at least 50 tons of cocaine from the Andean countries are transiting West Africa every year, heading north where they are worth almost US$2 billion on the streets of European cities.
Most cocaine entering Africa from South America makes landfall around Guinea-Bissau in the north and Ghana in the south. Much of the drugs are shipped to Europe by drug mules on commercial flights.
Upon arrival, the cocaine is predominantly distributed by West African criminal networks throughout Europe, said the UN.