Sebastian Ajavon, a prominent businessman in Benin and who came in third in the last presidential elections was arrested on Friday on suspicion of dealing in drugs.
Sources said Ajavon was arrested by coastguards at the port of Cotonou after a cocaine seizure in a container that was ferrying food products in the west African nation.
His lawyers who visited him at a local police station where he was being detained said no charges had been formally brought against him.
The drama began at dawn Friday at Cotonou port when the gendarmes of the Maritime Squadron intercepted a container from Brazil intended for COMON-CAJAF, a company which Sébastien Ajavon owns.
Inside the shipment, police say they seized 18 kilos of pure cocaine with an estimated value of about 9 billion CFA francs (around EUR 14 million). In the process, three company employees were arrested and placed in custody.
After he was alerted on the arrests, Ajavon called a press conference and denounced the incident as a set-up by rival businessmen.
“It seems that when we go into politics, there are shots that we receive. We receive hundreds, thousands of containers. How do they know that in a single container there were drugs? It is the way thugs operate,” Ajavon said before he was arrested by police.
With its porous borders and corruptible officials, West Africa has for more than a decade been a major transit point for cocaine grown in Latin America on its way to Europe.
Policing of maritime routes has however in the past few years helped drastically reduce the volume of cocaine transitting through West Africa.