JUSTICE ANIN Yeboah, an Accra FastTrack High Court Judge yesterday sentenced to 75 years, the three policemen standing trial for taking bribe from a cocaine fugitive, Sheriff Asem Dake, and letting him off the hook.
After finding them guilty, the trial Judge convicted the accused persons: Sgt David Nyarko, Clp Dwamena Yabson and Peter Bondorin of both charges of doing prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs and corruption by a public officer.
They were sentenced to 25 years each for doing prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs while given two years each for corruption by a public officer. The Judge indicated that the two sentences would run concurrently.
Justice Yeboah noted in his judgment that contrary to claims by the accused persons, there was enough evidence before him to prove that they were all at the residence of Sheriff, also known as the 'limping man'.
He stated that he was surprised that weapon-wielding cops such as the accused persons, looked on while Sheriff, who is a limping man, offloaded the cartons of boxes containing 76 missing cocaine parcels without arresting him, describing their actions as 'a dereliction of duty'.
According to the Judge, the evidence of one of the fishermen, who went with the accused persons all the way from Kpone Police Station near Tema to Sheriff's house, was very accurate and his demeanour in the witness box did not look like someone who was lying to the court.
The Fast Track Court Judge said the fisherman looked very credible and was completely at ease with himself even under rigourous cross-examination.
He said the fisherman, who, with his colleagues gave the policemen the tip-off, told the court that on April 26, 2006 while fishing, he and the other fishermen saw a boat, MV Benjamin aka Adade 2 and went closer to it to beg for fish.
The trial Judge said the fishermen had noted that as soon as they got closer they were met with gunshots and had to quickly move away, giving them the suspicion that it might be carrying some narcotics drugs. They therefore decided to report the matter to the police.
In addition, Justice Yeboah observed that it was one of the fishermen by name Martey who went to tell the second accused person, Yabson, stationed at Tema Community One Police Station, about their suspicion and he in turn invited the other policemen from Kpone to join him.
Mr. Yeboah said the fisherman, also known as Prosecution Witness (PW) 6, told the court that they initially went to Paradise Beach at Tema with the policemen but proceeded to Kpone Beach where they met Sheriff, already known to Yabson.
The Appeal's Court Judge, sitting with additional responsibility, noted that PW 6 told the court that there was a land cruiser vehicle near Sheriff with a white van loaded with boxes containing the cocaine while some of them spoke to Sheriff.
The prosecution witness also stated that after some minutes, one of the cops, Sgt Yaw Amoah (at large), told the rest of them to sit in Sheriff's vehicle and go home with him, which they did while the van was driven away; and it was while they were on their way that they met Cpl Bondorin, who crossed them with a taxi and joined them to Community 5.
Furthermore, he said the witness admitted that all of them- himself and his colleagues: Sgt Yaw Amoah, Cpl Yabson and Sgt Nyarko as well as Cpl Bondorin- went to Sheriff's house at Tema Community 5.
The witness, the Judge said, also stated that when they got home, Sheriff told the police he did not have money at the time, and excused them to go to town while they decided to stroll on a path waiting for his return. On arrival, Sheriff gave something, wrapped in a rubber, to Amoah, who in turn gave him and his colleagues $10,000 in the presence of the other cops.
On the evidence of Sgt Nyarko, the Judge said he lied to the court extensively and denied he ever went to the house of Sheriff and even said the fishermen were not given any money even though PW6 admitted being given the money.
The Appeal's Court Judge noted that the evidence of Nyarko gave him enough reason to believe that the convict indeed took bribe from Sheriff and was therefore guilty of the narcotic charge.
On Cpl Yabson, he said the accused person's evidence contradicted his earlier statement to the police, and when he told the court under cross-examination that it was because he was under pressure and now remembered the events more vividly, he gave the court reason to doubt his sincerity.
Justice Yeboah described the evidence of Yabson as “lies told consciously to suppress the truth in a court of law”, adding that his demeanour in the witness box left him with no choice but to believe that he indeed took money from Sheriff and let him off the hook.
Furthermore, he said he found the action of Bondorin, who had a weapon and not even tried arresting the fugitive, deplorable, adding that he suppressed vital information and could have at least invited Sheriff for questioning instead of allowing Amoah to influence him. The Judge therefore found him guilty of the first charge.
The Judge also found the accused persons guilty of the second charge of corruption by a public officer, noting that they were public officers at all material times.
On the allegation that Nyarko and Yabson used the money from the fugitive to buy cars, however, the Judge said the prosecution was not able to prove that cars the accused had in their possession were bought with the money given them by Sheriff, hence he could not order for their forfeiture since they had rights to property.
Justice Anin could not hide his disappointment at the conduct of the police who allowed Sgt Amoah to escape from their grips at a time when the image of the service had been dented.
In sentencing the accused person, he said he wanted it to serve as a deterrent to cops aiding the narcotics business.
Counsel for the accused persons, Musah Ahmed and Steven Ahore, had earlier pleaded for mitigation of sentence as their clients were first offenders, and prayed the court to caution and discharge them on the second charge.
Relatives of the accused persons could not control their emotions and they wept uncontrollably as the cops remained calm, albeit with shock written all over their faces. By Fidelia Achama