THE entry of the Mexican drug cartel Sinaloa in the country’s illegal drugs market was meant to reinforce Chinese drug lords who are being given a run for their money by African syndicates, their former allies.
A veteran anti-narcotics operative, who spoke on condition that he would not be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, told The Manila Times there were “circumstances” pointing to a fierce competition between Chinese and African drug traffickers.
“They used to be allies and at some point there was a falling out. Although we don’t have the statistics yet, there is basis to say that, yes, they seem to be fighting over control of the market. The Africans have contacts from other countries too,” the source told The Times.
Sought for comment, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) spokesman Derrick Carreon said the agency could not confirm the “turf war” but admitted that the Africans are among the threat groups they are up against.
“Prior to the discovery of the Sinaloa operations, the Africans used to be among the threats we consider, in fact, next to the Chinese. Their operations are not only limited to drugs but they are involved in high-tech crimes, computer fraud and others.
The Times source, on the other hand, confirmed that African syndicates are gaining fast on their competitors.
“Remember that they also send drug mules abroad,” he noted.
Carreon described the operation of African criminal elements as “more vicious” but Chinese drug operations are
“We believe the Africans are more dangerous because they are into other illegal activities besides drugs. We have encountered several cases involving them and were astounded by their schemes. However, Chinese drug syndicates remain the most prevalent,” said the PDEA official.
Carreon explained that members of the African syndicates are usually more “attached” to their victims, winning their trust by promising them a “good future.”
“Sometimes, they pose as religious missionaries or students. Others promise good fortune abroad where the unwitting victim would end up being a drug courier. Also, they are into computer and credit card fraud,” he added.
Agency records show that at least 40 drug suspects from African states were arrested between 2012 and 2013, including the 38 Beninoise nabbed last year. Benin is a state in West Africa.
Interestingly, no known member of the Sinaloa is in the PDEA list of arrested foreign drug suspects. This proves that the “joint venture” between the Mexicans and the Chinese was indeed “nipped in the bud” with the raid on the syndicate’s lair in Lipa City last Christmas.
The Philippine National Police’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (AID-SOTF) spokesperson Chief Insp. Roque Merdeguia said in a previous interview that the Mexican-Chinese connection was just starting when counternarcotics agents raided the game-fowl breeding farm.
Carreon echoed Merdeguia’s assertion, adding that the 84 kilos of high-grade methamphetamine hydrochloride seized during the raid were for “market testing.”
Based on PDEA records, there were 23 Chinese and 11 Taiwanese arrested in the same two-year period. All suspects are in jail on drug charges.
Also, 10 Swedes were arrested by PDEA during the period, while other nationalities mostly numbered less than five each.
Proof that the African dealers were trying to expand their market was the arrest in Baguio City recently of a Sudanese who was allegedly recruiting locals to become drug mules.
Carreon said they doubt the nationality of Wadah Mohamed Elwasila Elsadig, 22, a student in one of the city’s colleges and native of Shandi, Sudan.
PDEA Cordillera Assistant Regional Director Gil Castro, who led the raiding team, said Elsadig kept two hashish bars, a blister pack of 10-milligram drug Diazepam (with brand name, ‘Valium’) still containing six tablets, another empty blister pack of Diazepam and records linking him a transnational drug ring.
Reports quoting de Castro indicated that Elsadig is member of an African drug organization that rely heavily on couriers or mules to ship its contraband.
A member of the group usually enrols as a foreign exchange student in a Philippine school, where they either befriend, court or marry a female student or potential recruit.
In La Trinidad, Benguet, last December, Vice President Jejomar Binay warned Filipinos against falling into the trap of African syndicates, who are into credit card fraud, illegal recruitment and drugs.
The Western African Drug Syndicate, a well-financed international operation active mostly in Southeast Asia, made inroads into the country years ago. Authorities said it is composed of different nationalities, but most of the arrested members or reported recruiters are Nigerians.