08.11.2007 Crime & Punishment

Accused Admitted Giving Cocaine For Sale--Witness

By William Yaw Owusu -
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A Police Officer yesterday told an Accra Fast Track High Court that Lance Corporal Ekow Russel, one of the nine policemen interdicted in April, last year, for dealing in cocaine, admitted that he gave cocaine to a civilian to sell for him.

Chief Inspector Michael Addai said when the civilian, Maxwell Antwi, was brought for interrogation he mentioned Russel as his source of supply and when Russel was questioned, he admitted the offence but pleaded for leniency.

Chief Inspector Addai was testifying in the case in which Russel is being tried with Antwi, a car dealer, who the prosecution believes was supplied with the narcotic drugs by the policeman.

Russel is facing three counts of possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority, supplying narcotic drugs without lawful authority, and dealing in prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs. Antwi is charged with one count of possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority.

Last Friday, the court presided over by Justice S.Y. Anim of the Court of Appeal, dismissed an application for discontinuation of the case against Russel. His counsel, Captain Nkrabea Effah-Darteh (retired), had submitted that the accused had been processed before the Police Service Enquiry at the same time that the trial was proceeding.

Led in evidence by Mrs. Evelyn Keelson, a Principal State Prosecutor, Chief Inspector Addai told the court yesterday that Antwi mentioned Russel’s name on March 27, and gave the mobile phone number, the witness said he called Russel, who came the following day for interrogation.

'It was the first time I was seeing Russel and during interrogation, he confided in me that he was the one who had given the cocaine to Antwi to sell for him. Antwi was present and the two men were looking at each other', he said.

The witness told the court that he took statements from the two accused persons in the presence of an independent witness, Samuel Sarku, an electrician from La, Accra.

When the prosecution sought to tender Antwi’s statements, Musah Ahmed, his counsel, objected, saying 'he gave the statement based on the assurance by the police that he was going to be released on bail'.

He said that when the statement was taken, Antwi was not given the opportunity to seek the advice of counsel and cited the Illiterates Protection Act as not being followed by the police saying 'My client was dribbled by the police and we are calling for an enquiry into this', counsel stated.

Left with no option, the court immediately ordered a mini-trial to unravel the truth.

During the mini-trial, Sarku who is the independent witness, told the court that Antwi had freely given his statement without any harassment on March 27.

'Antwi spoke freely in the Twi language and was recorded in English by Inspector Addai and after everything, the statement was read and explained to the two of us by the police officer after which we both signed,' he said.

Sarku further told the court that on April 12, Chief Inspector Addai invited him again to witness the process for him which he did, adding 'we went through the same process as in the first one'.

During cross examination, Sarku admitted that the statement was read over to him and Antwi in English, not in Twi.

The court is expected to decide on November 12, whether or not Antwi’s statements are admissible.

The facts of the case are that on March 27, Antwi was arrested by the police with a whitish powdered substance which was later tested and found to be cocaine.

During interrogation, he alleged that it was part of 900 grammes of cocaine given to him by Russel to sell and claimed that he had already sold some quantities and given the proceeds to the policeman.

The prosecution said, investigations revealed that on January 16, Russell, together with a team of policemen and accompanied by some Nigerian informants, arrested Sebastian Uba, also a Nigerian, with eight slabs of cocaine.

Russel, according to the prosecution, asked his colleagues to position themselves outside Uba’s house while he entered with the informants.

'While his colleagues sent the suspect to the police station, Russel and the informants drove in one car towards Achimota with the cocaine and when they got to a point, Russell distributed the drugs among the informants.'

Russel allegedly gave five slabs of the cocaine to the informants, brought one to the office and kept two, thus creating the impression that he had seized only one slab from Uba.

The prosecution further told the court that Uba escaped from police custody on January 31, when Russel was instructed to take him from the La District Police Station to the Regional C.I.D.

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