Benin court drops charges against politician over cocaine haul

November 4, 2016 2:21 PM EDT

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COTONOU (Reuters) - A court in Benin on Friday dropped all charges against prominent politician Sebastien Ajavon who was accused of drug trafficking in connection with a haul of 18 kg (40 pounds) of cocaine found last week in a shipping container.

"He has been freed on the benefit of the doubt," judge Jacques Hounsou told a tribunal in the commercial capital Cotonou, citing a lack of proof against him.

Ajavon, who is also one of Benin's richest businessmen, came third in a presidential election in March. Detained more than a week ago, he denied charges of transporting and trafficking illegal drugs when he appeared before the tribunal.

Maritime police discovered the haul at the port of Cotonou in a container destined for one of his companies.

West Africa, with its porous borders and corruptible officials, has for over a decade been a transit point for Latin American cocaine en route to Europe.

But improved maritime policing in recent years has helped reduce the volume of cocaine passing through the region.

(Reporting by Allegresse Sasse; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Bernard Orr)



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