Manhyia, the seat of the Ashanti Kingdom, last Tuesday took centre stage at the Accra High Court trial on the missing 77 parcels of cocaine on board the MV Benjamin/Adede vessel, when revelations contained in a statement of one of the accused persons led to startling disclosures on how the revered palace came to be associated with the missing cocaine saga.
The name of the palace was raised in a statement to the police by the second accused person, Alhaji Issa Abass, who is standing trial with Kwabena Amaning, also known as Tagor.
The revelation in the statement prompted presiding judge, Justice Jones Dotse, to seek from a prosecution witness whether investigations had been conducted on the palace since Manhyia had been cited by the accused persons in police statements.
“Did you conduct any investigation on Manhyia?” the presiding judge, an Appeals Court judge with additional responsibilities as a High Court judge wanted to know from the prosecution's witness, Detective Inspector Justice Oppong, after evidence had been led that the Alhaji Issa Abbas alluded that former Director of Police Operations, suspected that the missing parcels of cocaine had been taken to Manhyia.
In response, the prosecution witness told the Court that it was for that reason that Alhaji Moro, one of the suspects was roped into the investigations and that the Manhyia had been investigated.
He said ACP Kofi Boakye, the on-leave Police Director of Operations, initially thought Kwabena Amaning, alias Tagor, had taken the 76 missing parcels to the Manhyia for safe keeping.
Presenting the cautioned statement by Alhaji Issa Abass to the Court, Detective Inspector Oppong said as a result, ACP Kofi Boakye called Tagor on his phone several times to enquire whether this was the case, but there was no response. The statement said this led Kofi Boakye to later invite Tagor, he (Issa), Kwadwo Ababio, Kwabena Acheampong and Victor Kisseh, alias Yaw Billa, to a meeting at his residence, which was recorded without their knowledge. Alhaji Issa's statement to the police, which appeared to have excited the court and lawyers, alleged that Kofi Boakye had told him that he had information about the parcels being sent to Manhyia by Tagor, the first accused, from where he was allegedly distributing the cocaine.
According to Alhaji Issa's statement, Kofi Boakye was unwilling to drag the name of the Asante Kingdom and Manhyia into disrepute and decided to travel to Kumasi to clear issues on the matter.
He said further that it was on Kofi Boakye's return from Kumasi that Alhaji Moro of Kumasi was brought to sit in at the meeting called at ACP Boakye's house.
Not satisfied after the meeting, Detective Inspector Justice Oppong explained that Kofi Boakye then invited Alhaji Imoro from Kumasi to ascertain the truth on the parcels allegedly being kept at Manhyia.
After they had all denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the cocaine, Kofi Boakye cautioned them to keep their ears on the ground.
Alhaji Issa in his statement denied dealing in any narcotic drugs, saying he dealt in imported cars from Russia. His statement was tendered in as evidence. Detective Inspector Oppong also read a statement by Tagor, in which he denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the drugs.
Five suspects were arrested initially over the missing parcels of cocaine but the Attorney-General dropped the charges against Kwadwo Ababio, Victor Kisseh alias Yaw Billa and suspect-turned witness, Kwabena Acheampong.
In a related case on the missing cocaine saga, another Prosecution witness, Kingsley James Inkoom, a Sailor, told the Court how he came into contact with the MV Benjamin cocaine.
He said he had worked with Dashment Shipping Company for one-and-a-half years as a cook on the MV Benjamin vessel until he lost his wife, came ashore and was paid off.
Mr Inkoom said he was not working after the funeral of his late wife and that it was on March 6, 2006, that he had an urgent call from Arhin, the third accused person, that there was a job for him so he should come to Takoradi. Mr Inkoom said he set off the next day and met Arhin at the main Takoradi Harbour in a fishing trawler.
When Senior State Attorney William Pobi asked him what transpired there, Mr Inkoom answered: “They were chipping and painting that is they scraped the rusted place and painted it”.
He said the following day after they had eaten their launch the Chief Engineer introduced Xing to him that he had come to join him to cook in the kitchen. He said the Chief Engineer told him that he would test the engine and sail to Tema.
Having sailed for two weeks and not reaching Tema, Mr Inkoom said, he asked the Engineer where they were going.
It was there that he saw a small boat coming towards them and they started throwing in some packages into our ship.
Mr Inkoom said the packages were bagged like a carton of fish and wrapped in a sack.
They were later asked to pack the items into the hatch and when he asked Arhin about the contents of the sacks and their quantity Arhin replied that they were 77 but he did not tell him about the content.
Mr Inkoom said after three weeks they got to Tema breakwaters at 0130 hours. Mr Pobi; what happened there?
Mr Inkoom said they anchored and he went to bed. But while sleeping he heard an unusual noise and “l saw a canoe and the people had entered our vessel and packed the things we have packed into the boat”.
During the process “I saw another canoe going round ours and the people holding guns, I saw our Engineer and the Captain holding guns but not pointing it out”. Mr Pobi: What were they using the guns for?
Mr Inkoom: To protect themselves. They took the goods and the canoe left”. He said after they had eaten the following day at 1700 hours “I asked the Chief Engineer what exactly the people came to take from our vessel, and he told me that it was cocaine”.
Mr Inkoom said the next day, a Naval Boat came around their vessel and ordered them to hands-up and they searched the vessel and found that the hatch was locked and Philip, the fourth accused person used a hammer to open it and they found a box like a carton of fish which was one of the items they received from the high seas.
He mentioned that it was Mr Ben Ndego, who brought it up, opened and tested it. It was found to be cocaine and he re-bagged it like a video deck cassette, put each on a scale and each weighed one kilogram. They were 30 pieces and he took them away.
Inkoom mentioned, Ben, Asante and Addai as the three people, who came back and took their statements.
They left us under the guard of the Navy for a week and later we were taken to the Police Headquarters. The case was adjourned to January 24.