News24

Moz drug network includes SA

2010-06-10 11:13

Maputo - A Mozambican businessman designated a druglord by the United States trafficked drugs to South Africa among his worldwide trafficking activities, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The US had “extensive proof” that Mohamed Bachir Suleman was involved in trafficking heroin from south-east Asia as well as cocaine and marijuana from Latin America to South Africa and European destinations, said Adam Szubin, the US Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

“We are saying we have a legal basis to conclude he is a significant narcotic trafficker,” he told Mozambican journalists during a video conference.

“On the scale of operations we do not have an exact figure, but the fact that Mr Suleman was singled out among five other individuals this year is a sign that the US considers it significant.”

President Barack Obama last week named Suleman a drug kingpin along with four others, including Ousmane Conte, son of late Guinean president Lansana Conte. A Mexican and two Afghanis were also on the list.

Three of Suleman's companies, Grupo MBS, Grupo MBS-Kayum Centre, and Maputo Shopping Centre, were implicated in the allegations.

Under American law, the US assets of named kingpins were frozen, so they could not perform business activities through US institutions. American citizens were also prohibited from doing business with designated kingpins.

“Freezing assets has powerful disruptive effects on traffickers,” Szubin said.

This was the strongest action the US government could take against non-American citizens, since they could not be prosecuted under US law.

However, last week Suleman denied any involvement in drug trafficking. He also said the designation would not have an effect on his businesses.

“I have no interests abroad,” he said. “All my investments are here in Mozambique.”

The richest man in Mozambique, Suleman donated $800 000 to the ruling party, Frelimo, ahead of the country's presidential elections in November 2009.

Szubin said that over 100 people were removed from the list each year in 2008 and 2009. However, these were all people on a lower status on the list who decided to change their activities.

“None of those names were removed after being added in error,” said US embassy in Mozambique press aid Tobias Bradford.

“We hope that Mozambique will consider the information important and will take action,” he said.

Mozambique's interior minister, Jose Pacheco, said the government was investigating the allegations.