The Accra Fast Track High Court yesterday sentenced an employee of the DHL courier service, Roger Ocloo, and Ellis Nyaho Tamakloe, a student, to 10 years imprisonment each for attempting to export 695 grammes of cannabis to the United Kingdom (UK).
The court, presided over by Mrs Justice Iris May Brown, a Court of Appeal judge with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, had found them guilty on April 26, 2007 but deferred the sentence to yesterday.
That followed a plea of mitigation by Mr Ellis Owusu-Fordjour, counsel for Tamakloe, that the accused was a first-time offender and a young man with good educational background and the fact that counsel for Ocloo was not in court.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted exportation of narcotic drugs without lawful authority and possessing narcotic drugs without lawful authority but the court found them guilty and sentenced each of them to 10 years on each count, to run concurrently.
The court said it took into consideration the plea for mitigation by counsel for the accused persons and awarded the minimum sentence because revenue that would have been lost to the company and the country as a result of the offence would have been enormous.
The facts of the case, as presented by Mrs Evelyn Keelson, a Principal State Attorney, were that on August 29, 2006 DHL officials, while going through their normal formalities before shipment, detected that one consignment with air waybill number AWB4361050536 and meant for shipment to the UK was “unusually bulky”.
“When that particular shipment was opened, it contained two parcels of compressed dried leaves suspected to be cannabis sativa (wee), a narcotic drug,” she said.
She said a report was made to the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and investigations revealed that the shipment had been brought in to be sent to an address in the UK by Ocloo.
It was detected that Ocloo used a different route code to outwit the DHL officials that it was he who brought the parcel.
The prosecutor told the court that the sender's particulars bore the address of Friesland West Africa, a company located at the Airport Residential Area in Accra, but investigations later revealed that Friesland was not the sender of the consignment and that Ocloo had falsified the address.
Ocloo then mentioned Tamakloe as the person who had brought the consignment for shipment and when he was also arrested, he mentioned Harry Campbell as the one who gave the parcel to him to send to DHL.
The prosecutor said Tamakloe had told interrogators that he did not know that the parcel contained cannabis. Later, the police found the airway bill covering the shipment in Ocloo's house.
The court held that had it not been the vigilance of the DHL officials, the offence would have been completed and the parcel sent to the addressee, explaining that the fact that the parcel was found in the offices of the DHL did not mean that the accused persons should not be held liable.
According to the court, it was not in dispute that Ocloo processed the parcel for shipment to the addressee in London, while he also admitted that he falsified the name of the original sender of the parcel, as well as the route code.
It said the deliberate act of concealing the real sender of the parcel and the route code did not exonerate Ocloo from the offence and found him guilty of the two counts.
Similarly, the court held, in the case of Tamakloe, that an attempt was made to arrest Campbell who was alleged to have given the parcel to Tamakloe but he bolted and had since not been arrested.
The court said although Campbell's absence was not detrimental to the defence of Tamakloe, Tamakloe's testimony showed that by previous association he knew the correct procedure in sending parcels through DHL and yet he acted to the contrary in the instant case.
Moreover, the court held that Tamakloe's complicity in using a false address and wrong signature meant he did that while aware of the illegality of the whole exercise.
Story by Stephen Sah