28.07.2008 Crime & Punishment

125 YRS FOR 5 COKE DEALERS...In M.V. Benjamin Case

By Stephen K. Effah -
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One of the country's high-profile narcotic trials which has dragged on for over two years, ended yesterday when five persons involved in the MV Benjamin cocaine haul in 2006, were handed a total of 125-years in jail in hard labour by an Accra Fast Track High Court.

Each of the accused was given 25 years by the court presided over by Justice Anin Yeboah, a Supreme Court judge.

Their sentence takes retrospective effect from April 27, 2006, the day of their arrest.

They are Joseph Kojo Dawson, owner of the vessel and Managing Director of Dashment Company Limited, Isaac Arhin, sailor, Phillip Bruce Arhin, mechanic, all Ghanaians, Cui Xian Li, the vessel engineer and Luo Yui Xing, sailor, both Chinese.

Another person, Pak Bok Sil, the Korean vessel engineer, who was jointly charged with the five, was on October 16, 2007, acquitted and discharged by the court after the prosecution failed to prove a case against him.

Isaac Arhin, Philip Arhin, Cui and Luo were convicted on the charges of possessing narcotic drugs without authority and engaging in prohibited business, while Dawson was convicted for using his property for narcotic offence.

They all pleaded not guilty.

Delivering his judgement lasting nearly two hours, Justice Yeboah held that the prosecution was able to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Isaac Arhin, Philip Arhin, and the two Chinese, took part in the voyage that brought the 77 parcels of cocaine to the breakwaters in Tema Harbour.

The court said their complicity amounted to the promotion of the narcotic drug enterprise in the country.

Turning to Isaac Arhin, the judge said he tried to suppress the truth about his involvement in the haulage by lying on oath, and was not prepared to disclose that they took delivery of anything other than fish. On Bruce Arhin, Justice Yeboah said that his evidence on oath contradicted his statement to the police, noting "he had a guilty mind and wanted to cover up in his statement".

He described his explanation as unacceptable, saying the accused actively took part in the delivery of the cocaine from a fishing vessel in the Monrovia waters.

Touching on Cui, the trial judge said that the evidence given proved that he was part of the vessel's crew who packed the cartons of cocaine on the MV Benjamin in Monrovia seas, which he insisted was fish.

"His conduct showed he knew about the cocaine," he said, adding that his explanation in court and denial is "incorrect" as his evidence appeared not to be true.

With regard to Luo, Justice Yeboah said that his evidence that he knew nothing about the cocaine onboard the MV Benjamin was not convincing, describing "his total denial as a deliberate attempt to surpress the truth.

"He had a guilty mind…he did actively take part in the handling of the cargo that contained the cocaine in Monrovia waters. His explanation is not reasonably probable," Justice Yaboah pointed out.

The judge said Dawson also knew about the deal, adding that he did not see why Dawson, as the MD of the company that own the vessel did not append his signature to the charter documents but rather his father.

The court held that as the MD, Dawson had authority to stop the vessel from sailing off the Takoradi Harbour since no down payment was made.

The judge inferred that the one parcel of cocaine that was left in the vessel when it docked at Tema, was not by chance "but for the payment of the vessel charter." He would therefore not accept his defence that he knew nothing about the cocaine.

Here are some highlights of the case: In March, 2006 the MV Benjamin vessel was impounded by officials of the Narcotic Control Board, the Ghana Navy, the Ghana Air Force and the National Security Secretariat at the Tema Harbour with one parcel of cocaine.

In November 2006, trial of the accused persons began and ended in March 2008 pending judgement.

On Tuesday, October 16, 2007, the five opened their defence.

A total of 13 prosecution witnesses testified against the accused persons. The accused persons did not call any witnesses.

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