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Two Ghanaians in Court Over 6-ton Cocaine Bust

Two Ghanaian businessmen appeared in court in Accra on Wednesday accused of conspiring to import nearly 6 tons of cocaine from Bolivia, one of the biggest recorded cocaine seizures linked to West Africa.

Authorities in Bolivia seized the drugs in March but senior state attorney Rebecca Adjalo told an Accra circuit court the plan had been for the drugs to transit through Ghana's Tema port and continue to the country's northern neighbor Burkina Faso.

Adjalo did not specify the cocaine's final destination. The drugs would likely have been shipped to Western Europe, where the total shipment would have had a street value of more than $400 million, according to experts.

The seizure in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, dwarfs others linked to West Africa and represents nearly 5 percent of the cocaine consumed annually in West and Central Europe, according to 2009 figures from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Two law enforcement officials in West Africa said the seizure was nearly 6 tons, confirming the figure cited in Ghanaian court documents. Bolivian media gave a lower figure.

West Africa is a significant transit zone for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe. If they are found guilty, the men's case will show how the region still plays a significant role in the flow of narcotics despite a lull in large seizures.

Accused men Alexander Kofi Baah and Shahad Iddrisu appealed through their lawyers on Wednesday for release on bail, telling a packed court the state's case is vague and lacks substantive evidence to tie them to the conspiracy. The men deny wrongdoing.

An investigation into the haul involved authorities in Bolivia, Ecuador, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, Adjalo told the court.

According to court documents, authorities found 5,888 kilograms of cocaine on March 4 concealed in 840 sacks of fertilizer. They arrested an Ecuadorian citizen whom Adjalo said was the mastermind of the plot.

The next day, authorities in Ghana arrested Baah, who speaks Spanish, and Iddrisu, who works as a customs officer at Tema harbor and is also managing director of Dow Commodities, a company that imports ethanol alcohol and cooking oil to Ghana.

There was no immediate comment from authorities in Burkina Faso.