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28.03.2007 General News

Sheriff Chartered MV Benjamin — Court Told

The fugitive cocaine baron, Sheriff Asem Dakeh, alias “The Limping Man”, chartered the MV Benjamin, the vessel at the centre of the missing 77 parcels of cocaine, from Dashment Shipping Services, the Accra Fast Track High Court was told yesterday.

This and other incriminating evidence about how the vessel was loaded with cocaine on the high seas off the coast of Liberia and the changing of its original name was contained in the caution statements of four of the six persons who are being tried in connection with the missing cocaine on board the vessel tendered by Police Inspector Justice Oppong.

He was testifying in the case in which the owner of the vessel, 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, are alleged to have played various roles leading to the importation of 77 parcels of cocaine, each weighing 30 kilogrammes, into the country.

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.

Each of them has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and have been remanded into prison custody.

Inspector Oppong said when the case was referred to him, he got to know all the accused persons from whom he took statements.

He said on July 22, 2006, he took a caution statement from Dawson in which the accused stated that his lawyers and those of Sheriff entered into an agreement to charter the vessel.

In Isaac Arhin's statement, he stated that he was the second officer in charge of the vessel and that on November 7, 2005, it developed a fault and was taken to the Takoradi Harbour breakwaters where it was anchored.

According to him, on January 10, 2006, a man called Mr Bell came with four Koreans, including Killer, who is also on the run, the chief engineer and Sil to inspect the vessel and said they had taken over.

He said later on the vessel was repaired, after which Killer brought some fuel, food and other sundries and explained that the vessel was going to be tested so they would sail to Tema. But while that was being done, he realised that the vessel was sailing elsewhere.

Isaac said the vessel sailed to the high seas off the coast of Monrovia where two small vessels loaded their vessel with the 77 parcels of cocaine.

He said the vessels' name was changed to MV Adede II by the captain on the high seas before it docked at the breakwaters of the Tema Port.

Bruce Arhin also corroborated Isaac's statement and added that no sooner had their vessel been loaded with the 77 parcels than he spotted a helicopter hovering in the air.

He said it took them 28 days to get to the vessel which loaded their vessel, while it took them about 12 days to sail back to Tema.

According to him, all those people on board the canoe which came for the 77 parcels were black and he suspected them to be fishermen because of their deep voices.

He said before sailing from Takoradi, Killer said the vessel's name would be changed but he did not see how that was done until they got to Tema.

The caution statement of Sil, the Korean, was admitted after an objection by his counsel.

In it, Sil said he knew Killer and that he went to Takoradi on December 10, 2005 to check on the condition of the vessel with Mr Bell but spent only three days and returned to Tema.

He said Mr Bell later came from Spain to inform him that he had bought the vessel and, therefore, gave him some money to pay off its crew, which he did and narrated what Mr Bell had told him to them.

Sil said Killer came to tell him later that he was going to use the vessel to tow another vessel to Tema and that Sheriff had also bought the vessel.

He denied ever being aware of when the vessel left the Takoradi Port and when it docked in Tema before it was arrested.

Story by Stephen Sah