Monday, April 30, 2012

The missing 77 parcels of cocaine trial - Prosecution failes to appear in court

April 5, 2012 (Page 20) STATE prosecutors today failed to show up at the trial of Christian Sheriff Asem Darkei, alias The Limping Man, the man who was alleged to have played a major role in the shipment and disappearance of 77 parcels of cocaine weighing 2,310 kilogrammes with a street value of $138.6 million in April 2006. There was no representation from the Attorney-General’s Department when the case was called at the Circuit Court’s sitting in Accra this morning. The absence of a representative from the Attorney-General’s Department prompted the trial judge, Ms. Audrey Korcuvie-Tay to appeal to the department to respect the rights of accused persons. Counsel for the accused person, Mr George Heward-Mills accused the state of ambushing his client. He said the state had indicated its readiness to start the case today only to fail to show up in court. According to him, the conduct of the state was a clear infringement on the rights and liberties of his client adding that his client was innocent until proven guilty. He, therefore, prayed the trial judge to use her discretion in deciding on the next line of action to be taken. A Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr. A. A. Annor, informed the court the police had forwarded the docket on the case to the Attorney-General’s office for prosecution. Ms. Korcuvie-Tay then moved in and adjourned the case to April 18, 2012. On February 21, 2012, an Assistant State Attorney, Mr Owusu Ameyaw, told the Accra Circuit Court today that investigations were ongoing and for that reason, the court should remand the accused person. However, Mr. Heward-Mills did not take kindly to the prosecution’s claims and argued that investigations should have been completed by now. Sheriff, who has been in hiding since 2006 until his arrest on February 2, 2012 was arrested by BNI officials at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital upon a tip off. He has pleaded not guilty to the three counts of conspiracy, importation and exportation of narcotic drugs. Sheriff was indicted for allegedly paying $3,000 to a detective sergeant to facilitate his (Sheriff’s) escape. According to the facts of the case, at about midnight on April 26, 2006, a vessel, the MV Benjamin, reportedly carrying about 77 parcels of cocaine with each parcel weighing 30 kiolgrammes docked at Kpone/Tema and discharged the cocaine. It said the said 77 parcels were offloaded into a waiting vehicle which carried them away. According to the prosecution, in the course of investigations, Sheriff’s name featured prominently as the importer and/or owner of the drug. He was said to be the person who chartered the vessel at a cost of $150,000 to tow another vessel from Guinea to Ghana. Sheriff, the prosecution noted, was the person who carted the alleged 77 parcels on the ship’s arrival at Kpone. The disappearance of the cocaine led to the constitution of the Georgina Wood committee and the subsequent trial of persons alleged to have played various roles. In July 2008, an Accra Fast Track High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Anin Yeboah (now a Supreme Court judge ), convicted and sentenced Joseph Kojo Dawson, the owner of the MV Benjamin and Managing Director of Dashment Company Limited; Isaac Arhin, sailor; Phillip Bruce Arhin, mechanic; Cui Xian Li, the vessel engineer, and Luo Yui Xing, sailor, all crew members of the MV Benjamin, to 25 years in prison with hard labour. Phlip Bruce-Arhin, however, died barely three weeks after his conviction. The convicts, including the deceased, were found guilty on charges of using property for narcotic offences, engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotics and possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority. A sixth accused person, Pak Bok Sil, a Korean national, was on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 acquitted and discharged by the court, which ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a case against him. Following the committee’s recommendations, the trial of Kwabena Amaning alias Tagor and Alhaji Issah on November 28, 2007 and they were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment each with hard labour for conspiracy and engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs. However, they were released on July 25, 2009 when they appealed against the High Court’s decision. For aiding a fugitive, The Limping Man, to flee with 2,280 kilogrammes of cocaine, three policemen were in December 2007 sentenced to a total of 75 years imprisonment with hard labour by the Accra Fast Track High Court. Sergeant David Nyarko, Detective Corporal Dwamena Yabson and General Lance Corporal Peter Bondorin, were sentenced to serve 25 years imprisonment each after the court found them guilty of receiving an unspecified amount in US dollars from Dakei and subsequently allowing him to flee. Bondorin died in prison a few months after his conviction. Although the Georgina Wood Committee recommended that Sheriff be prosecuted, he had since 2006 proved elusive until his arrest in February 2012.

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