A Niger mayor and his driver have been nabbed in a northern Niger desert with over 200kg of cocaine in their car, police have revealed.
The duo, that has been kept anonymous, is reported to have been ferrying the drug to Libya after it had been smuggled into the nation from Mali.
According to Niger’s drug policing agency, the cocaine is the largest quantity of the drug ever seized in the country.
Over the years, drug smuggling and police seizures are becoming more popular in the area.
On Wednesday, Niger’s Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Drug Trafficking (OCRTIS) revealed that police had been aware of the cocaine being transported towards Libya, and had been following the trail.
“[The investigation] led to the seizure on 2 January of 199 bricks of cocaine – weighing a total of 214kg – in a vehicle belonging to the mayor’s office in Fachi,” OCRTIS spokeswoman Nana Aichatou Ousmane Bako said.
On Sunday, the vehicle had left Fachi and was moving towards Libya for the town of Dirkou when it was stopped.
“It’s the first time that our country has seized such a big quantity of cocaine,” Bako said, adding that the drugs were headed for Europe, where they had an estimated street value of about $19m.
The mayor and his driver were taken to Niger’s capital, Niamey, for questioning.
Fachi is an oasis in the Tenere desert about 400km (250 miles) north of the town of Agadez. It is a renowned trading center for salt and dates.
The area is often used as a route for multiple types of trafficking – including moving of drugs between South America and Europe, and migrant smuggling.