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Britain to Help Ghana Fight Drug Trafficking

Britain is offering expertise and training to help Ghana fight drug trafficking. The United Nations says West Africa is increasingly a transit point for cocaine destined for Europe.

Britian's parliamentary undersecretary in the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Bridget Prentice, announced the so-called Operation Westbridge during a visit to Ghana.

"This will involve the deployment of experienced U.K. customs officers, and state of the art iron scan detection equipment to the [Kotoka International] airport," she said. "The operation will last between one and two years."

The program, to begin November 15, will also involve training Ghanaian customs officers on how to use the equipment, as well as profiling, targeting, intelligence-gathering and other security techniques.

Prentice says a similar program Britain launched in Jamaica four years ago, helped reduced the number of couriers from that country, detected at British airports from a thousand per year to five.

The support comes barely a month after a Ghana government committee, set up to investigate some narcotic cases in Ghana, recommended among other things, the prosecution of 17 people, including a senior police officer.

Ghana's interior minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, says Ghana intends to pass anti-money laundering and related crime legislation soon.

"Government will continue to work with the global community, to do all that has to be done, to ensure the negative identification of our country with narcotic drugs, is completely erased," he said.

Kan-Dapaah says the government is following through on the investigative committee's recommendations, and a high-powered consultative meeting is under way, to look into ways to combat the illegal drug trade in Ghana and restructure Ghana's Narcotics Control Board, or NACOB.

"The experts have been drawn from Ghana, the UNDP, the UK, the USA, and the European Union, and these experts will examine drug issues in the country, provide inputs into a new drugs policy that we are working on, recommend a new structure for the [Narcotics Control Board], NACOB and determine the logistical and other resource needs of the NACOB." he said.

The government says it is determined to win the war against illicit drugs.