Mr. Banta Kieta, the alleged suspect in cocaine case

The government of the Gambia through the Justice Ministry have made a fresh call on international partners including the world police body, Interpol to support its efforts in arresting international drug kingpin, Mr. Banta Keita wanted in Gambia for drug trafficking.

In January 2021, Gambia’s anti Narcotics agency made a major drug seizure of nearly 3 tons of cocaine with a street value of about $88 million, at the country’s seaport.

2.9 tons of cocaine stuffed in 118 bags was shipped from the Port of Guayaquil in Ecuador through Algeciras in Spain via Maersk Line Shipping Company.

The case which attracted broad international attention saw one Sherif Njie whose name was reportedly used as the contact person for the shipment, arrested and charged before the courts.

But on Tuesday, the Justice ministry issued a statement saying the main suspect is still on he run.

“The cocaine case involving one Banta Keita has been investigated. The suspect is on the run and we are working with international partners to apprehend him. There is no evidence linking the said Banta Keita with the President. Evidence is stored in a secure storage facility under the custody of the DLEAG. Once the evidence Is tendered it passes to the custody of the court. At the end of the trial the drugs are tested and weighed to ensure they match the original seizure quantity before destruction,’ The Ministry said.

The drug Law enforcement agency says the massive shipment valued at $88 million belongs to Banta Keita, a French national of Gambian descent.

Questioned about the progress of the Banta Keita case in June 2021, the Gambia’s Interior Minister, a former Police Chief told lawmakers in Banjul  that “International investigations, cannot be put within timeframe. You can [make] temporary seizures, temporary activities, until the main suspect is arrested. This is a criminal link, linking all the way to Ecuador – a lot of personalities are involved, the Ecuadoran authorities are also investigating. We have to remember that these drugs transited through many countries undetected until their arrival in The Gambia undetected. So this is why we are collaborating with international partners to make sure the link is controlled from where they departed, in all transit areas up to Gambia. All we have as at now is only people we arrested here. We’re urging others to arrest others in other areas to dismantle the criminal gang.”

The Gambia has been previously used as a transit route for South American drugs shipments bound for Europe and other destinations.

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Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.

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