By: Fabakary B. Ceesay
Since the seizure of 118 bags of cocaine amounting to 2 tons, 925kg and 850grams, the biggest ever drug catch in the Gambia on 7th January 2021, with a monetary value of over 88 million Dollars, rumours and counter rumour about the state of affairs surrounding the matter and allegations that it was swept under the carpet as the accused person at the centre of the allegation Mr. Banta Keita is nowhere to be found to face the law.
The said consignment was shipped from Ecuador via Spain to the Gambia.
Trumpet Newspaper probes into the matter and discovered that the International Police known as INTERPOL has put a “RED NOTICE” internationally for the arrest of Mr. Banta Keita, a Gambia- French national.
The actions taken by INTERPOL was due to efforts and initiatives taken by authorities of the Gambia’s Drug Law Agency (DLEAG) after they took the matter before a competent Court which has jurisdiction to hear the case to secure international arrest warrant for the fugitive.
A communication between Gambia’s anti drug officers and INTERPOL indicated that Mr. Keita is now an international fugitive and is on the watch list of the International Police as a wanted person for drug trafficking.
Our investigation reveals that Mr. Keita was charged in absentia at the Banjul Magistrates Court on 12th January 2021, five days after the seizure of his imported consignment at the sea port in Banjul.
The Court issued an international arrest warrant for the accused under a three count charges against him.
Powered with an arrest warrant, the Drug Law Enforcing officers on 13th January, made an official request to INTERPOL Headquarters in Lyon, France, through the National Central Bureau of INTERPOL (NCB).
And on 14th January, the request from the Gambia was approved and granted by INTERPOL and accordingly a “RED NOTICE” was issued for the arrest of Mr. Banta Keita.
The High Court of the Gambia also issued an order for the freezing of accounts of Mr. keita at Ecobank and Zenith Bank, respectively.
Further probe into the matter, but unconfirmed, indicates that fugitive keita is hiding and given sanctuary in a West African Nation.
A former narcotic officer confined to the Trumpet that Keita is likely hiding in one of the Portuguese speaking African countries, but was reluctant to name a particular country. The said ex-officer ruled out the notion that Keita could be hiding in Western countries.
However, Mr. Lamin J. Gassama, Director of Intelligence and investigation at Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia confirmed an official correspondence between them and INTERPOL for a red notice on Banta keita.
Gassama indicated that efforts are being done at all levels to locate and arrest keita. “You know these drug dealers are very powerful and connected globally. They are rich and can afford to buy their ways in and out of many places. As far as we are concern, we don’t underestimate Banta keita, he have money and can buy a safe place for himself. But we are sure sooner or later he will be apprehended like all drug dealers ended up like”, said Gassama.