Guinea-Bissau former president’s son jailed in US

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*Sanha Jr

The son of a former president of Guinea-Bissau was sentenced to more than six and a half years in prison for involvement in a transnational heroin trafficking conspiracy, the US Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Malam Bacai Sanha Jr, 52, planned to use the proceeds to finance a coup in the West African country that would lead to his eventual presidency and establishment of a “drugs regime,” according to the statement released by the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

“Malam Bacai Sanha Jr. wasn’t any ordinary international drug trafficker,” said Douglas Williams, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston Field Office. “He is the son of the former president of Guinea-Bissau and was trafficking drugs for a very specific reason – to fund a coup.”

Sanha was a leader and organizer in the heroin trafficking conspiracy and was involved in its importation from Europe to the United States, according to the statement.

He was arrested along with a co-conspirator after arriving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in July 2022. They were extradited to the United States shortly afterwards.

In September 2023, Sanha pled guilty “to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance for the purpose of unlawful importation,” according to Tuesday’s statement.

He was sentenced to 80 months in prison.

Guinea-Bissau has had a history of military coups interspersed with periods of democratic rule – though elected leaders managed to serve a full term since the country gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

Sanha’s father, Malam Bacai Sanha, was initially installed by a junta as interim leader in 1999 before he lost the election the following year.

He won the presidency in a 2009 election but died while seeking medical treatment in Paris in January 2012 before completing his term.

His son, known as “Bacaizinho” in Guinea-Bissau, has served in several government roles, including as an economic advisor to his father.

AFP