Drug Trafficking in Mozambique
A cable was sent in November of 2009 from the US Embassy in Maputo detailing the increasing problems Mozambique was experiencing with drug trafficking. The diplomat described how “porous borders, lack of law enforcement resources, and rampant corruption allow drug traffickers to freely transit the country”.
2. (S) The primary route for cocaine is by air to Maputo from Brazil via Johannesburg, Lisbon or Luanda. On arrival passengers and baggage do not pass through immigration and customs, which allows them to avoid the improved security at the airports of origin. Drugs (mostly cocaine) are smuggled overland to South Africa for local South African consumption or onward to Europe. Cocaine is often smuggled by mules and/or in suitcases with hidden compartments. The drug traffickers routinely bribe Mozambique police, immigration and customs officials in order to get the drugs into the country. The decrease in drug related arrests at Maputo International Airport is not attributable to improved interdiction efforts but rather increased police and customs involvement in drug smuggling. A high level law enforcement official admits most police drug seizures are not reported to his office because traffickers and police make on-the-spot arrangements to allow the drugs to continue to flow. Police and customs officials routinely detain drug smugglers and are then bribed to release the smugglers and the drugs are confiscated and resold. Domingos Tivane, the Director of Customs, is directly involved in facilitating drug shipments. Tivane has amassed a personal fortune in excess of a million dollars, to include numerous investments around Mozambique.
3. (S) Transport by sea is the preferred route for hashish, mandrax, and heroin shipments, often involving large quantities. Drugs come from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. They are then loaded onto a vessel that sails to Dar Es-Salam, Tanzania, or Mombasa, Kenya. Drugs are often concealed in containers with legitimate goods and are often offloaded and sent via land to Mozambique. Alternatively, the vessel offloads its cargo in the Ports of Maputo, Beira and especially Nacala. Drugs are then smuggled overland to South Africa or onward via air, to the U.S. and Europe.
“Mandrax” here refers to a brand name of methaqualone, commonly known as Quaaludes in North America. No longer legally produced, it is clandestinely manufactured for the illegal drug market in many African and South Asian countries. Methaqualone is a common drug of abuse in low-income segments of South African society, where it is mixed with cannabis (“dagga”) and typically smoked in a bottle neck pipe.
Two Main Drug Trafficking Networks
4. (S) There are two large drug trafficking networks that operate in Mozambique. Both of these networks have ties to South East Asia. Mohamed Bashir Suleiman (MBS) is the head of a well financed organized crime and money laundering network centered on the family owned and managed business conglomerate Grupo MBS. Suleiman uses Grupo MBS and proxies like Rassul Trading, run by Ghulam Rassul, and Niza Group, owned by the Ayoub family, to smuggle drugs from Pakistan via Dubai in containers carrying televisions, electrical equipment, cooking oil and automobiles. The Suleiman family has connections in South Africa, Somalia, Pakistan, Latin America and Portugal, and maintains a complex structure of businesses with a wide variety of commercial activities that serve as a cover for a multitude of illegal activities. Suleiman has a close relationship with former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano and current President Armando Guebuza, and enjoys ties to senior level Mozambican officials, including the Director of Customs, Tivane. Grupo MBS and the Suleiman family reportedly have connections in the Ibrahim Dawood international drug syndicate.
5. (S) Ghulam Rassul Moti is a Mozambique based ethnic South Asian narcotics trafficker who has smuggled hashish and heroin in the Nampula province of Northern Mozambique since at least 1993. He has been linked to several prominent international narcotics traffickers and uses these relationships and his political influence to avoid customs and police inspections at the seaports and borders. Moti owns Rassul Trading Co. and Grupo ARJ which are major narcotics importers in Nacala, and suspected in the trafficking of persons, mainly Pakistanis. Post is also seeing increased cooperation between West and East African based narcotics networks with Mozambique drug networks. The main drug organizations are rumored to support extremist Islamist elements in Mozambique.
6. (S) A porous border, lack of resources for law enforcement as well as endemic corruption among Mozambique’s senior level officials leads to a situation where drug traffickers are able to freely transit the country. Mid-level Mozambican officials are afraid to go after people involved in the major drug networks because they know they have connections to senior level government officials. Senior members of the ruling FRELIMO party are seeking to hide the level of corruption from the press, the electorate and the international donor community. As a high level law enforcement official also said recently in private, ‘Some fish are too big to catch.’
From Cable Reference ID 09MAPUTO1291, 2009-11-16 07:07, Classification SECRET, Origin Embassy Maputo.