MAPUTO– The Mozambican authorities are analysing a report published at the weekend which claims that heroin is Mozambique’s second most important export product, says the spokesperson for the General Command of the Mozambican police force, Inacio Dina.

The report was published by the Department of International Development of the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE). Its author is visiting senior fellow Joseph Hanlon, a British journalist and expert on Mozambican matters, who has studied the country closely since its independence in 1975.

The Portuguese version of the report is being distributed by the Mozambican anti-corruption non-governmental organization (NGO), the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP).

Asked about the report at his weekly media briefing here Tuesday, Dina said: Naturally, the report needs analysis to verify the basis of its conclusions. Superficially, we must understand that the country’s geographical location, with a lengthy coastline (about 2,470 kilometres), and long land borders (nearly 4,800 km), opens up various scenarios.

He admitted that the geography allowed illegal passage through the country, but claimed that the authorities have done their utmost to guarantee security and protection at the borders and along the corridors.

However, he made no mention of the report’s claims of corruption in the police and at the ports and commented mainly on claims about the porosity of Mozambique’s borders.

Asked about the scale of the entry and exit of prohibited goods, he claimed That major work on stopping illicit traffic has been undertaken at Mozambican airports, but that deeper research into the phenomenon was needed.

The scale of the heroin trade, according to Hanlon’s research, is enormous. He writes that Mozambique has become a significant heroin transit centre and the trade has increased to 40 tonnes or more per year, making it a major export which contributes up to 100 million US dollars per year to the local economy.

The heroin trade is an offshoot of the war in Afghanistan. Hanlon notes that heroin is produced in Afghanistan and shipped through Pakistan, then moved by sea to East Africa and particularly northern Mozambique. From there it is taken by road to Johannesburg, from where it is sent to Europe.

Estimates vary from 10 to 40 tonnes or much more of heroin moving through Mozambique each year,” the report says. With an export value of 20 million US dollars per tonne, heroin is probably the country’s largest or second largest export (after coal).It is estimated that more than two million USD per tonne stays in Mozambique, as profits, bribes, and payments to senior Mozambicans.”

Heroin arrives on dhows 20 to 100 kilometres off the coast. The Mozambican role is to take it from the dhows, move it by small boat to the coast and then by road to warehouses, and finally take it by road to Johannesburg, South Africa, the report says.

The 10-40 tonnes a year estimate is from dhows only, and further significant amounts of heroin also arrive in containers of other imports, particularly at the northern port of Nacala.”

Although heroin production is on the increase in Afghanistan, tighter control of transit through eastern Europe is moving the trade to southern routes, and more controls in Kenya and Tanzania has moved sea landings south to northern Mozambique, Hanlon writes.

Embassies in Maputo, the report adds, were well aware of the illicit trade, but only the United States took measures when, in 2010, the Obama Administration, decreed that one of the richest businessmen in Mozambique.

Mohamed Bachir Suleiman, who boasted of his close ties with the ruling Frelimo Party, was a drugs kingpin. The US Treasury Department described Bachir as a large scale narcotics trafficker whose network contributes to the growing trend of narcotics trafficking and related money laundering across southern Africa.

Bachir denied the accusation, and a Mozambican investigation, under then Attorney-General Augusto Paulino, could not find the evidence needed to mount a case against him (partly because the Americans are reluctant to share their information, doubtless not wanting to blow the cover of their sources).