November 1, 2013 (Lead Story)
A 42-year-old German was yesterday arraigned before the Financial Division of the Fast Track High Court for attempting to smuggle $650,000 out of the country.
Piera Cascante Victor Hugo, the accused, was arrested at the Kotoka International Airport by officials of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) on April 29, 2013 while undergoing departure formalities en route to Bolivia.
He allegedly concealed the money, together with other currencies, in wallets, pockets of items of clothing and secret compartments in five travelling bags.
Hugo pleaded not guilty to four counts of attempted exportation of currency without licence issued by the Bank of Ghana, concealment of currency, contrary to Section 269 of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (Management) Act, PNDCL 330, smuggling of currency and money laundering.
Twist in events
There was an interesting twist to events at the court’s sitting when Hugo’s lawyers informed the court that the accused person could not fully comprehend the evidence being led by an officer of NACOB and for that reason he needed the services of a Spanish interpreter.
One of the lawyers, Dr Kwaku Nsiah, disclosed the accused person’s request after an official of NACOB had led evidence in English for almost an hour.
Although the presiding judge, Mrs Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe, had said the witness had told the court earlier that he comprehended German, Italian, Spanish and English, the court would oblige his request and demand for an interpreter.
The trial judge, accordingly, directed the registrar of the court to procure the services of an interpreter for the next hearing, slated for November 13, 2013.
Meanwhile, a bail application moved on behalf of the accused person by his lawyers was refused by the court.
The court, however, granted permission to Hugo to seek medical care at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital after his lawyers had informed the court that he had a cardio problem.
Earlier, a narcotics analyst, Mr Ishmael Amon-Kortei, had told the court that he was on duty at the last security checkpoint at the KIA on April 29, 2013 when the accused person approached his desk with five hand luggages for inspection.
Led in evidence by Mr Matthew Amponsah, a Chief State Attorney, Mr Amon-Kortei said a lady was in Hugo’s company when the search in his bags was conducted.
During the search, it emerged that Hugo had concealed the money in secret compartments in the bags, wallets and clothes.
Due to Hugo’s claim of having difficulty in appreciating the full import of the prosecution’s evidence in English, the court has since expunged the evidence so far led from its records.
Consequently, Mr Amon-Kortei is expected to start his evidence-in-chief afresh on the next adjourned date.