Home News Stories 2008 July Our Legal Attache in Dakar, Senegal

Our Legal Attache in Dakar, Senegal

Settling Down in Dakar
Our Newest Office in Africa

07/14/08

dakar.jpgDakar, the capital of Senegal and Africa’s westernmost city, has been a hub for transatlantic trade and travel for centuries. Today, it’s also a hub of sorts for the FBI, home to one of our newest Legal Attaché offices.

Now more than ever, the FBI is a global organization, with offices in more than 60 U.S. embassies worldwide. With unrest and security issues bubbling up in parts of Africa, we’ve begun expanding our presence on the continent in recent years. Our office in Dakar, officially opened in February 2007 at the invitation of the Senegalese government, brings our total number of Legal Attachés in Africa to seven—joining Cairo (Egypt), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Lagos (Nigeria,) Nairobi (Kenya), Pretoria (South Africa), and Rabat (Morocco).

Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Relford heads the office, which covers not only Senegal but ten other Western and Central African nations—Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and the Republic of Congo.

Combating terrorism is the primary focus of the Dakar Legal Attaché, like most of our other global offices. Says Relford, “Unfortunately, West and Central African countries are increasingly feeling the effects of terrorism-related issues.”

Partnerships are key to tackling the threat. In conjunction with the U.S. Ambassador and embassy team, Relford works with his counterparts at agencies like the Senegalese Gendarmerie and National Police, Cape Verde Judicial Police, Gambian National Police, Bissau-Guinean Judicial Police, and Gabonese National Police…sharing intelligence, facilitating requests for our investigative and technical assistance, and recruiting students for our National Academy and regional training sessions.

Because of its location, Dakar serves as “headquarters” for many countries and organizations with regional responsibilities. So our Dakar office has also established strong relationships with partners from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Illegal drug trafficking is a related focus. What does narcotics trafficking have to do with terrorism? According to Relford, several of the countries his office covers are transshipment points for masses of cocaine manufactured in South America and destined for Europe. “This movement,” says Relford, ”has threatened regional stability, provided a haven for money launderers, and given terrorist and organized crime organizations the opportunity to profit by assisting in the trafficking of narcotics.”

It’s not only illegal drugs that are being trafficked—so are cigarettes, counterfeit goods, and weapons, all in-demand items that could put money in the pockets of extremists and other criminals. And a well-financed terrorist or criminal group can wreak havoc on a country like the U.S. from anywhere in the world.

Accomplishments so far. Although fairly new, the Legal Attaché has been busy…and productive. For example, the office:

  • Takes part in the Regional Multi-Agency Counter Narcotics Initiative, focusing on Colombian drug trafficking organizations in Western Africa;
  • Is helping several nations develop an automated fingerprint search capability;
  • Facilitated our assistance to Cape Verde police on a case involving a fugitive who fled to the U.S. and to the Senegalese investigating a group of drug traffickers; and
  • Supported a case involving the murder of a U.S. Peace Corps worker in Gabon.

“Western Africa is a fascinating place, and it makes sense for us to be here,” says Relford. “It’s very satisfying to be able to help protect America from across the world.”

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