Trial of cocaine trafficking in Ivory Coast: “Competition and violence, all that is on Netflix! »

Lassana, Lassina or Alassane, his first name varies according to the stories of his co-defendants, but his last name, Soumano, remains the same

Trial of cocaine trafficking in Ivory Coast: “Competition and violence, all that is on Netflix! »

Lassana, Lassina or Alassane, his first name varies according to the stories of his co-defendants, but his last name, Soumano, remains the same. The last character in the legal soap opera that has fascinated Ivorians since December 2023 was presented, Thursday, March 28, before the economic and financial penal center of Abidjan where the trial of a vast network of drug traffickers is being held. Tried for international cocaine trafficking and criminal conspiracy after the seizure of more than two tons of cocaine in San Pedro and Abidjan in April 2022, he does not admit the facts. Slender in his well-cut sky blue boubou, Lassana (the first name written on his Ivorian passport) Soumano is a businessman with dual nationality, Malian and Ivorian, and with multiple hats. Manager of an international hydrocarbon trading company, he also presents himself as a “web entrepreneur” and occasionally engages in the online resale of used vehicles.

According to him, it is this secondary activity which linked him, by misfortune, to the vast network of drug traffickers with whom he appears. Lassana Soumano says he was approached “in June or July 2021” by a certain Dramane Koné, who wanted to buy a car. The two men reportedly met in the parking lot of the Pangolin bakery in Koumassi, south of Abidjan, where Mr. Soumano used to conduct his negotiations. Dramane Koné allegedly showed up there accompanied by his boss, the alleged mastermind of cocaine trafficking Miguel Angel Devesa Mera, but the Spaniard did not get out of the car. The sale did not go through, and the two Ivorians then began a friendly correspondence.

“Dramane Koné sent me messages to wish me “Jumu’a Mubarak” [“good Friday”], specifies the defendant. We called each other from time to time. I found him friendly. » So sympathetic that he agrees to grant him a loan of 500,000 CFA francs (762 euros), when Mr. Koné cites a family emergency. Miguel Angel Devesa Mera acts as guarantor for his employee and signs him an acknowledgment of debt, which Dramane Koné repays a few days later.

“He’s a gentleman! »

But, in October 2021, it was the turn of Mr. Devesa Mera to request a loan of 1 million CFA francs from Lassana Soumano. The Spaniard signs a new acknowledgment of debt, but once the deadline has passed, he does not repay. Lassana Soumano multiplies the calls and goes so far as to try to intercept him in the restaurants he usually frequents, without success. The defendant even recounts an incredible scene during which he confronts Miguel Angel Devesa Mera in a hotel restaurant, exclaiming: “By hook or by crook, you will pay me my money! » Mr. Devesa Mera would then have fled, relates Lassana Soumano, who would not have heard from him again until the announcement, on social networks, of his arrest. A few members of the audience let out an incredulous laugh. Such an altercation over a debt of one million CFA francs seems hardly compatible with the considerable sums mentioned during previous hearings by the prosecution.

To the prosecutor who questions him about his relationship with the drug trafficker, Lassana Soumano replies that “Mr. Miguel is not my friend, just an acquaintance.” So why give him a loan? “He’s a gentleman, he’s very persuasive! exclaims the defendant. You saw it clearly every time he took the stand! » In the front row of the accused, Miguel Angel Devesa Mera strokes his chin, struggling to suppress a smile.

Lassana Soumano is also questioned for a long time about his two identity documents. The spelling of his first name, his date of birth, but also his mother's last name differ from one passport to another. Simple administrative errors, Mr. Soumano swears. False papers, according to the court. If the question is crucial, it is because Miguel Angel Devesa Mera claimed during the investigation to have known Lassana Soumano in Mali in 2009, as part of a previous cocaine trafficking operation, announced the president. Then having worked a second time with the defendant, ten years later, in Abidjan. “According to Mr. Devesa Mera, he used you to sell the small quantities of cocaine,” she says, specifying that Mr. Soumano’s number is recorded in the drug trafficker’s directory under the name “Amigo [ friend in Spanish] Mali Koumassi”.

" I will explain to you "

“An untruth! », swears the defendant who maintains having met the former Spanish police officer for the first time in the Pangolin parking lot. The president of the court then invites Miguel Angel Devesa Mera to take his place at the bar. Immediately, the murmurs fall silent. “I’m not going to change anything in my statement,” he says casually, his hands crossed in front of him. But he agrees to develop it, starting his story with his favorite phrase: “I will explain to you…”

And he therefore explains having met Mr. Soumano, whom he calls Alassane, in Bamako “in 2008 or 2009”. Already involved in cocaine trafficking, Miguel Angel Devesa Mera at that time used the services of the Go Voyages agency for which Lassana Soumano worked. The latter would also have been employed by a Colombian associate of Mr. Devesa Mera, for whom he delivered cocaine to Europe.

Then the two men lost sight of each other after the incarceration of Miguel Angel Devesa Mera in Mali, between 2010 and 2011. Before meeting again, by coincidence, in the parking lot of the Pangolin patisserie. “I was in the car with Dramane Koné when Alassane Soumano recognized me,” says Mr. Devesa Mera, phlegmatic. He called me: “Mr. Miguel! Mr. Miguel!” And that’s how we got back in touch. » Mr. Soumano was already active in trafficking in Abidjan, he indicates, and would have offered him his services.

“We have a bad connection.”

Miguel Angel Devesa Mera recognizes the two loans, to remedy liquidity problems, but assures that he always repaid Mr. Soumano on time, “and with interest”. He also allegedly used it in 2021, when he was trying to sell a shipment of cocaine from Ghana. But he swears that Lassana Soumano has nothing to do with the drugs seized in San Pedro and Abidjan, in April 2022, at the heart of this trial. “I am not comfortable with Mr. Soumano,” admits the Spaniard. We have a bad connection. I didn't want to work with him for large quantities. »

Miguel Angel Devesa Mera, however, admits to having agreed to help Lassana Soumano deal with Spanish-speaking suppliers from Latin America, “Paraguayans or Uruguayans”, by acting as interpreter during their meetings. A case of importing cocaine by containers, he specifies. “I think he used my name with them too, because everyone knows me there. He used my… What do you say, my pill? » “Your notoriety? » , suggests the president. " That's it ! He used my notoriety for his business. »

The prosecutor is surprised and asks him why he agreed to help a competing trafficker. Miguel Angel Devesa Mera laughs. “See, that’s the problem with American films and series! Competition and violence, it's all on Netflix. In reality, when you do business, cooperation is better. » The trial will resume on April 11 with the indictment of the civil parties, representing the State of Côte d'Ivoire, and that of the Prosecutor's Office.