U.N.: Ivorian military officers smuggling cocoa 'warlord-style'

April 30, 2013 at 2:30 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, April 30 (UPI) -- "Warlord-style predatory economic activities" of ex-Ivory Coast rebel leaders integrated into the military include smuggling cocoa beans, a U.N. report said.

Military commanders are taking in millions of dollars by smuggling resources, including cocoa beans, out of the world's largest producer of cocoa, a panel of U.N. investigators concluded.

The report, released last week, alleges former rebel leaders who supported President Alassane Ouattara's successful electoral campaign against former President Laurent Gbagbo have smuggled an estimated $400 million worth of cocoa -- 1.6 percent of the Ivory Coast's 2012 gross domestic product -- out of the country, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

"The current Ivorian administration has progressively integrated former zone commanders into the national armed forces without the commanders having abandoned their warlord-style predatory economic activities, which they have now extended to the entire Ivorian territory," the U.N. report said.

"On the basis of evidence and testimonies, the group is aware of frequent convoys of trucks transporting cocoa to Ghana that are escorted directly by members of the Ivorian army," the report said.

The United Nations said much of the contraband cocoa was smuggled through Ghana as "a practical alternative to paying export duties, and encountering higher handling and transport costs and illicit checkpoint payments on the highways leading to the ports of Abidjan and San Pedro."

The report concluded the smuggling operation also includes gold, diamonds, cotton and timber.

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