A UN official who was investigating the Höegh Transporter, the vessel on which drugs and weapons were found during a raid at Mombasa port, has been found dead in his hotel room in the Kenyan city.
Meanwhile, reports say the international drugs cartel smuggling the contraband had exploited a Customs loophole in India that enabled the drugs to evade detection while the vessel was being loaded.
Drugs believed to be cocaine and US-made rifles and machine guns were found onboard the ship on Monday by Kenyan authorities. The drugs were being smuggled inside the tyres of UN military trucks being carried by the Höegh Transporter (6,500 ceu, built 1999) for use in peace-keeping missions in the Democratic of Congo.
Thirty-four rifles, including nine M-16 rifles and NATO-grade machine guns, that were not included in the ship’s cargo manifest were hidden in compartments inside the military trucks (see update below).
Shamus Mangan, who worked for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was found dead in his room on September 5.
The Australian national had been one of the detectives investigating the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) and those involved in loading it with weapons and narcotics in Mumbai, police told Kenya’s Star newspaper.
Mangan was among those who were tipped off by international agencies with intelligence about the vessel and its contraband cargo.
He was found dead by hotel staff “with considerable blood in his mouth”, reports say, but no physical injuries were immediately apparent.
Eleven sachets of what is believed to be cocaine were found in his room, as well as other drugs, police told the Kenyan paper.
The international drugs cartel smuggling the cocaine purposefully hid the drugs within the tyres of UN military vehicles to make use of less stringent Customs inspections, reports say.
The UN vehicles were loaded in Mumbai, the vessel’s previous port of call, on September 7.
Consignments meant for UN peacekeeping missions are usually routed through the Indian Army’s operational logistics and strategic department, a former Indian Army officer told India’s Mid-Day news website.
The Indian Army gives clearance to this department, following which the consignment has to go through fewer checks from the Customs department – and the cartel was well aware of this benefit, the officer said.
Meanwhile, the Höegh Transporter is still under threat of being blown up by Kenyan authorities, which in August dynamited a yacht that was found trying to smuggle heroin worth $200,000 into the country.
Höegh said its Chinese crew “have remained on board, provided assistance and monitored the investigation”.
UPDATE: Höegh Autoliners, the vessel’s operator, said in a statement today: “It is our understanding that these weapons belong to the UN vehicles in which they were found, and were for use by the UN during their peacekeeping mission. The weapons were not declared to us at the time the cargo was loaded, and the fact that weapons were in the vehicles is in violation with our terms of transportation, which clearly states that no arms or ammunition are accepted for shipment. “