`Zanzibar officials in drug traffic network face music`

By Abdallah Bawazir
25th March 2013

The government of Zanzibar has vowed to take stern measures against the four officials who conspired to use the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in trafficking narcotic drugs.

The suspected officials whose names were not revealed until yesterday work at the luggage inspection unit, which operates under the Isles Ministry of Communication and Transport.

Speaking to this reporter, the Deputy Minister for Communication and Transport, Issa Haji Gavu, said it is an offence according to the law of the land if proved that they conspired to transport the drugs.

According to the deputy minister, among the reasons for installation of the luggage scrutiny machines at the airport is to control the importation and exportation of narcotic drugs, weapons and other things that may jeopardise passengers’ and poeples’ safety.

“Workers who were on duty at the unit on March 16, will be interrogated after we receive the investigation report, and if proved that they were involved in the plot, the government will take disciplinary and legal actions against them,” he said.

Gavu explained that his ministry is waiting to receive the report from the airport management before taking further action saying the government and the world at large are fighting against narcotic drugs.

Commenting on the issue of the ministry to task its workers to operate the inspection machines instead of giving the job to defence and security officers, the deputy minister said, “most airports in the world use a similar system … the only thing needed is to build their capacity.”

Meanwhile, at least two people have been arraigned, including Greek national Vasileios Alex (24), who was arrested on March 16, this year with 5kgs of narcotic drugs at the Abeid Karume airport while leaving the country. Yusuf Abeid Fereji alias Mkambi, a resident of Miembeni in Zanzibar who conspired with Alex was also arrested.

For his part, the Zanzibar Police Commissioner, Mussa Ali Mussa said investigation into the case is almost done as they are now hunting for the four officers of the unit who conspired with Alex and Fereji.

Mussa further told this reporter that the Greek national was found in passengers’ lounge while his luggage had already passed all security checks without being noticed.

According to him, the police were forced to print a report of Alex’s communications details from his two cell phones which identified the people he was communicating with including Fereji and some officials of the ministry of Communication and Transport.

On March 20, this year, Police in Zanzibar burst a network of dealers which included officials from the luggage inspection department who use Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar for trafficking narcotic drugs.

From January to March this year six people have been arrested in connection with drug trafficking at Karume International Airport. Three of them were foreigners.

Some of them were transporting the drugs outside the country while others were bringing them in.

Zanzibar is facing a serious problem of narcotic drugs and related crimes disrupting families and development, particularly affecting young adults.