Saturday, April 20, 2024
In DepthDrug mules bound for Asia

Drug mules bound for Asia

A growing number of Ethiopian and International citizens are becoming victims of a drug mule allegedly orchestrated by Nigerian drug-lords operating within Ethiopia. 

Caught by custom officials, there is now a growing prison population in Hong Kong, many people imprisoned for carrying cocaine believed to belong to drug lords who exploit their poverty, youth and lack of knowledge for what is perceived to be an easy way to gain access to resources that are hard to come by at home. This comes as more people are facing the consequences of their actions, including penalty that includes life time imprisonment and a hefty fine.

A number of young people are said to languish in prison with little resources for their legal defense of their own, as their case earns little attention from their respective nations. This month, a prison chaplain based in Hong Kong, Father John Wotherspoon traveled to Ethiopia to tell some of the stories and plead with Ethiopian authorities to warn people from becoming a drug mule.

He met with an array of government officials, including members of the drug squad at the Federal Police in a desperate effort to council Ethiopian authorities to improve their security standards before more people become victimized.

“The people I meet are vulnerable. There are people who are ordering them to carry these drugs. While many nations have helped change their securities at their respective airports, it seems, Bole International Airport has not followed suit and it has become worrisome for many of us who see what is happening (in Hong Kong)”, he said.

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Within Bole International Airport, there is said to be a lax security measures taken to root out anyone exporting drugs to such nations and many citizens, in particular from South America who use Bole Airport as a hub to connect, since Ethiopian Airlines remains accessible to many international destinations and a number of African nations that are being lured to become a drug mules.

Such a prisoner from Brazil (whom The Reporter is withholding his name) wrote a letter to tell his side of the story and perhaps warn others from following in his footsteps.

According to him, he arrived from Brazil to Hong Kong via Addis Ababa. He was scheduled to stay in the capital overnight and meet with a group of Nigerians, who met with him at a hotel situated in ’22 area’ and he was asked to transport the drug. He was showed with gifts, was spoiled in the wee hours of the night, dined and was offered a chance to make easy money by transporting 2 kilos of drugs hidden in his luggage.

The Reporter reached out to the hotel and it confirmed that he was an overnight guest. He accepted the offer and he is now languishing in prison.  

This week, two other 20-somethings, Guinean citizens, were caught trying to smuggle 130 pellets of cocaine, wanting to take advantage of some security attention placed on the COVID – 19 viruses.

While it took 18 hours at a local hospital to extract the cocaine from their body, they told a local media how they “agreed to work for a drug trafficking racket, and that the gang bought them tickets to fly from Guinea to Ethiopia, where they swallowed the drugs in a hotel, and then on to Macau via Bangkok”. 

They were to have earned only 6,800 USD upon completion of the work.

Eirini Melissaropoulos, a 21 year old Greek model accused of being a drug mule with trying to transport cocaine that was almost two kilos inside her backpack. She was one of the few who defied the odds and was found not guilty ultimately.

She was caught with drugs hidden inside her bag, when she traveled from Ethiopia to Hong Kong. Afforded expensive lawyers, advocacy from her own government and gaining media attention, she allegedly denied knowing what was in her backpack as it was given by a friend and was released.

However, such an easy explanation to complex legal issues seems to work less for others.

An Ethiopian citizen was caught in 2017 after he was offered resources to start a business. Blinded by his own humbling circumstances and little employment prospects at home, he accepted 2 kilos of drugs and he was caught at the Hong Kong Airport.

He has received no Ethiopian diplomatic assistance or resource to defend himself from the allegations in front of him and his chance of freedom is bleak.

Another 76 years old man was caught last month, accused of trafficking cocaine coming via Ethiopian last month. According to local media based in China, South China Morning Post “The man was arrested when a flattened slab of the suspected cocaine was found hidden in a false compartment of his suitcase. The total amount of cocaine weighed 2.1kg”.

According to sources, these are a glimpse of some of the drug mules who frequent the Ethiopian Route and Bole International Airport. The fact all the happenings that have been occurring at Bole have not taken a hold on changes needed is a concern for Father John but he is hopeful that things can still change.

He has seen other nations change their ways and stop vulnerable people from travelling to Hong Kong with illegal drugs. Engaged to the cause since 2013, his concern in Ethiopia, unlike the other nations he has worked in, the issue has not taken a hold of authorities to show them the seriousness of the case.

“I want to see immediate changes in Ethiopia, in particular at its airport. While a through security search is necessary in addition to better technologies, I also want to see warning signs placed everywhere at the airport, staff members that are prepared to assist those that are pushed to carry these drugs should something suspicious can be seen, instead of having them face the consequences of their action in Hong Kong and have them face their fate”, he said.

Father John visited Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and Ethiopia in the last month as part of his effort to end drug mules’ and posts all his efforts, including open letters from prisoners and their families  

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