Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cock-a-doodle-don't: Hiding drugs in chicken

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LAGOS, Nigeria -- The roasted chickens had an unusual stuffing -- $150,000 worth of cocaine, according to Nigerian police.

A Nigerian mechanic who struggled in Brazil for more than six years had hoped the drugs would buy him a life of luxury in his native land, Nigerian authorities said Monday.

"This was like a retirement plan for him," said Mitchell Ofoyeju, spokesman for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

The accused was arrested over the weekend at the airport in Lagos after he came in from Sao Paulo with 2.6 kilograms of cocaine, Ofoyeju said. Photos from the agency showed egg-shaped packages wrapped in gold aluminum foil and tucked into the browned chickens. The suspect, Vincent Chegini Chinweuwa, remained in custody Monday.

Nigeria is a major transit point for drugs coming from Latin America and going to Europe or the United States but recent security improvements are cutting into that dubious distinction.

After a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009, Nigeria started installing airport scanners and sought training for its agents. Ofoyeju says the scanners helped authorities identify more than 100 drug carriers last year, leading to the seizure of about 400 kg of cocaine, among other illicit drugs.

Authorities have found drugs sandwiched inside the fabric of suitcases, sewn into wigs worn by female passengers, tucked into underwear or hidden in phone chargers and even in a stethoscope, Ofoyeju said.

"The list is endless," he said.

The weekend seizure may even redeem the agency's image after the controversial arrest last year of a popular Nigerian comedian known as Baba Suwe. The agency held him for more than three weeks to monitor his bowel movements after a scanner detected what investigators believed to be drugs -- but no drugs were ever found.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 4, 2012 A2

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