Ghana court finds British girls guilty of drug trafficking

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The Independent Online

Two British teenage girls were found guilty Wednesday of trying to smuggle cocaine out of Ghana in laptop bags, officials and lawyers said.

Two British teenage girls were found guilty Wednesday of trying to smuggle cocaine out of Ghana in laptop bags, officials and lawyers said.

The 16-year-old students from London were to be sentenced Dec. 5, said Gary Nicholls, a spokesman for the British High Commission announced the ruling outside of the courthouse. They face up to three years in jail.

Nicholls said both girls were found guilty on counts of possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs. The two were arrested at the Accra airport in July with nearly 6 kilograms (about 13 pounds) of the drug in their computer cases.

Officials had said earlier the two had been recruited in London by drug traffickers who promised them an all expenses-paid vacation in return for serving as "mules" — drug couriers. The teens reportedly left for Africa telling their parents they were going on a holiday in France.

The head of the girls' legal team said they plan to appeal.

"We are deeply disappointed at the verdict. These are two extremely vulnerable young girls whose naivete was ruthlessly exploited by the man who lured them to Ghana and led them to this terrible fate," Sabine Zanker said.

The juvenile courtroom was closed to the public.

West Africa is increasingly becoming a transit point for drugs headed to Europe. Cocaine, mostly from Colombia, is brought on small planes and dropped on islands off the little-policed Atlantic Ocean coast, then distributed to couriers who carry it into Europe.

British and Ghanaian officials began collaborating last year after the number of drug-related arrests at London airports linked to West African flights surged.