Mozambican Businessman Named as Drug Baron
Maputo — United States President Barack Obama has named Mozambican businessman Mohamed Bachir Suleman as a drug trafficker, and the US Treasury Department has frozen any assets that his companies may own in the United States.
Obama identified Suleman as a drug baron under a US law, the Kingpin Act of 1999, which makes it possible for the government to impose financial and economic sanctions against foreign drug traffickers.
A US Treasury Department press release, dated 1 June, states that, following Obama's naming of Suleman, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has named Suleman's three main companies, the MBS Group, the Kayum Centre and the Maputo Shopping Centre as "Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers for being owned or controlled by Suleman".
OFAC has not only frozen any assets these companies may have on US soil, but has prohibited any US citizens from doing any business with them.
The release cites OFAC director Adam Szubin as stating "Mohamed Bachir Suleman is a large-scale narcotics trafficker in Mozambique, and his network contributes to the growing trend of narcotics trafficking and related money laundering across southern Africa." Szubin did not, however, reveal any of the evidence which has led Obama to name Suleman as a drug baron.
This follows publication of the US State Department's 2010 "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" which warned that Mozambique is becoming a transit country for the shipment of narcotics and precursor chemicals. The report said that Mozambique serves as a "transshipment point" for such narcotics as hashish, cocaine, heroin and mandrax.
The report added that "Mozambique's role as a transit country for illicit drugs and precursors continues to grow because of its weak and sometimes corrupt law enforcement capacity at borders, major seaports, and airports".
"Inadequately trained and equipped law enforcement agencies and corruption in the police and judiciary hamper Mozambique's interdiction efforts and makes it easier for traffickers to use Mozambique as a transit point for illegal narcotics", the report said.
The report pledges that the US Government will pursue a dialogue on how to combat drug trafficking "with higher levels of the Mozambican government over the coming year, with the goal that engagement with the Mozambicans on counternarcotics will prevent Mozambique from becoming an even more attractive transit location for hashish, cocaine, and heroin".
Occasionally Mozambican police or customs officers have succeeded in detaining low level drugs operatives - often "mules" carrying cocaine inside their bodies, and arriving from Latin America at Maputo airport, often via Lisbon. One of these traffickers, a young Peruvian woman, died on a plane from Johannesburg to Maputo in 2006 when capsules in her stomach broke open and she suffered a massive cocaine overdose.
But none of the drug barons for whom the "mules" (usually young women) are working have ever been arrested. Two of the traffickers caught in Beira were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in May 2006, but kept their mouths shut and refused to say who was employing them. Other detained "mules" have complained of receiving death threats - but do not reveal who is threatening them.
Attempts by AIM to contact Suleman to hear his reaction to the American move have so far been unsuccessful.
OFAC says that, under the Kingpin Act, more than 700 individuals and companies worldwide, linked to 87 drug barons, have been designated since June 2000. Criminal penalties for company officers can reach 30 years in prison and fines of up to five million dollars. Criminal fines for companies themselves may reach 10 million dollars. Lower ranking individuals could face prison sentences of up to 10 years.
2 June 2010