A Sailor on the MV Benjamin fishing trawler yesterday told the Accra Fast Track High Court that a small trawler off-loaded 77 cartons of goods wrapped in sacks onto the MV Benjamin on the high seas.
Mr James Kingsley Inkum, the sailor, said the goods looked like cartons of fish but when they were later offloaded into a canoe at the breakwaters of the Tema Harbour, the vessel's chief engineer told him the contents were cocaine.
That was after he had asked the engineer what the contents were.
The contents of the 77 cartons were confirmed by Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) officials who field tested the one carton which was found in the hatch of the vessel after it had docked at the Tema Port.
Mr Inkum was testifying in the case in which the vessel owner, Joseph Kojo Dawson, Pak Bok Sil, a Korean, Isaac Arhin and Philip Bruce Arhin, both Ghanaians, Cui Xian Li and Luo Yin Xing, both Chinese, has been accused of importing the narcotic drugs.
The accused persons are alleged to have played various roles leading to the importation of 77 parcels of cocaine, each weighing 30 kilogrammes.
They have been charged with various counts of using property for narcotic offences, engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotics and possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority.
Led in evidence by Mr William Kpobi, a Principal State Attorney, the witness narrated how he came to be associated with the vessel and its subsequent loading with the narcotic drugs before their arrest.
Giving a background to how the cocaine was imported, the witness identified all the accused persons, except the Korean, with whom, he said, he worked for one and a half years on the vessel before his disengagement in 2004.
According to him, he lost his wife and after the funeral he was paid off, rendering him unemployed for some time. He said he knew Dawson as a director of Dashment Shipping Company Ltd, the company which owned the vessel, while Xian Li, one of the two Chinese, was the engineer.
The second Chinese, he said, joined the vessel in Takoradi when he had been called by Isaac Arhin to rejoin the vessel.
The witness said he was called by Isaac Arhin on March 6, 2006 and informed to go to Takoradi for a job, which he obliged.
He said when he got to Takoradi the following day and went on board the vessel to start work as a cook in the morning, he met Isaac Arhin.
Mr Inkum said he met Isaac Arhin, Bruce Arhin and Xian Li refurbishing the vessel and the following day Xian Li came with two Koreans as he started cooking.
He said after eating, the two Koreans brought Yin Xing, the other Chinese, who came to eat along with them, but after that Xian Li informed him (witness) that Yin Xing was coming to join him in the kitchen.
The witness said the next day Xian Li said they were going to sail to Tema so he would test the engine but when they left Takoradi the vessel sailed for almost two weeks without reaching Tema.
He said he asked Xian Li where they were sailing to and his reply was that they were going to get some parts for the vessel.
"After sailing for another week, a small fishing trawler came near our vessel and offloaded some goods into our vessel. The goods looked like cartons of fish wrapped in sacks. After that we were asked to pack the goods into the hatch of our vessel," he stated.
According to Mr Inkum, after packing the goods, he asked Isaac what the contents were but he replied that they were 77 cartons without stating the contents.
He said the vessel sailed for about three weeks to reach the breakwaters of the Tema Port at 1.30 a.m. and anchored.
He said after anchoring, he went to bed, during which he heard an unusual noise in the vessel which woke him up, only to see a canoe by the side of the vessel.
The witness said the occupants of the canoe entered the hatch of the vessel to offload the 77 cartons into their canoe.
He said while that was going on, he saw another canoe with three occupants in it, one of whom was holding a gun, moving round the vessel while its captain and Xian Li also held guns.
After collecting the goods, he said, the canoe left and it was about 5.00 p.m. that day, during meals time, when he asked Xian Li what the people in the canoe had come to collect.
He said after their meal Xian Li said he would be going to bring some food to replenish their stock before taking them to the main harbour.
Mr Inkum said at about 6.00 a.m. the following day he saw a Naval boat approaching the vessel and not quite long after that Xian Li told them that the Navy people had come to see them.
He said when the Navy men saw them they ordered that they should raise their hands for a search, which took the men to the vessel.
He said after the search, the Navy men started the vessel's engine and took it to the Tema Fishing Harbour where some NACOB officials and more other Navy men entered the vessel to conduct a further search.
The witness said when the hatch of the vessel was opened, one of the 77 cartons was found containing 30 smaller slabs, each weighing one kilogramme.
He said Mr Ben Ndego of NACOB cut open one of the slabs and field-tested for cocaine, which proved positive.
Earlier, when Xian Li cross-examined Sgt Edward Yaw Asante, he denied knowledge of the contents of the cartons and said it was not true that the one parcel of cocaine left on the vessel was meant to pay their salary.
When he asked Sgt Asante what evidence he had to prove that the parcel was meant to pay their salary, Sgt Asante replied that it was Yin Xing who even took him to where it was hidden.
At his turn, Yin Xing denied that he was part of the crew of the vessel and stated that he had only gone on board to eat.
He claimed that he was innocent.
Counsel for the Arhins, Mr D. K. Ameley, who was to cross-examine Mr Inkum, could not do that because of ethical considerations.
Consequently, the judge, Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, adjourned the case to next Wednesday to enable them to engage another lawyer to do that for them.
The facts of the case are that Dawson, who has been charged with one count of use of property for narcotic offences, was alleged to have allowed Asem Darkeh, alias Sheriff, who is on the run, to use his vessel to import the 77 parcels of cocaine on February 6, 2006.
Story By Stephen Sah