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13.03.2007 General News

Agent paid for MV Benjamin charges

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An officer of the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority, tells an Accra Fast Track High Court hearing the alleged illegal importation of 77 parcels of cocaine into the country that the maritime charges covering the movement of the MV Benjamin Ship was paid by the agent of the vessel.

Captain James Owusu Koranteng said, "The Port does not deal with owners but shipping agents who are licensed with the port."

Dashment Fishing Company Limited is the agent of the ship, which is owned by Mr Joseph Dawson who is charged for using his vessel to cart the cocaine.

He said all monies that were paid between November 2005 to March 2006 to the Takoradi Harbour on the vessel was made by the agent, Dashment for the supply of water and electricity and bore the company's stamp.

Captain Koranteng, who is the sixth prosecution witness in the alleged cocaine case to give evidence said on December 2005, payment was made by Dashment for the supply of fresh water for 10 tonnes at the cost of ¢40,000.

He said an amount of ¢3,469,354 was paid for the supply of electricity and final payment of vessel and cargo system input of ¢4.4 million was paid before the ship sailed to the high seas.

Captain Koranteng stated that, "all these payments of various maritime charges were made by the agent, Dashment."

Led in evidence by Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obubisa, Senior State Attorney, Captain Koranteng said the Ghana Ports and Harbours took all documentation on the vessel on any maritime rules and the movement of vessels.

He said the vessel booking form showed that MV Benjamin was coming to the port and the input form also showed what bed should be allocated to the vessel.

The accused crew members are Pak Bok Sil, 46, Korean Engineer; Isaac Arhin, 49, Sailor; Philip Kobina Bruce Arhin, 47, mechanic; Cui Xing Li, 44, Chinese Sailor, and Luo Yin Xing, 49, Sailor and Mr Joseph Kojo Dawson, the owner of the vessel and Director of Dashment Fishing Company Limited.

Isaac Arhin, Philip Arhin, Cui and Luo are charged with possessing narcotic drugs without authority and engaging in prohibited business.

All of them pleaded not guilty and are in police custody, while the case has been adjourned to March 20, 2007.

During cross-examination, Mr E K Ameley, counsel for Dawson, Captain Koranteng, said he did not know the owner of the said vessel and that it is the agent that one worked with.

Counsel: Does it mean that anybody at all who comes to pay the bill, the money will be collected?

Captain Koranteng: Yes, My Lord.

When Counsel put it to him that the vessel did not sail to the high seas, Captain Koranteng maintained that 12 nautical miles from the port was part of the high seas.

He explained that the vessel card indicated that the vessel really sailed to the high seas.

Counsel: If a vessel is on charter can the agent be changed?

Captain Koranteng: It depends on the charter.

Source: GNA