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30.05.2009 Crime & Punishment

Six Tema cocaine suspects remanded

By Daily Graphic
Six Tema cocaine suspects remanded
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Controversy grief and show of power yesterday characterised proceedings at the Accra Fast Track High Court, where six persons are standing trial on cocaine charges.

The six were arrested at the Tema Port last Tuesday, May 19, 2009, in connection with the 71.45 kilogrammes of a substance suspected to be cocaine concealed in a container.

They were initially granted a reprieve following their discharge by the court but that was not to be as events later led to their being remanded by another court, where they were arraigned, until June 4, 2009.

At the court where the accused persons were granted bail, the prosecution filed a nolle prosequi, indicating that the Republic was not interested in prosecuting and the court made orders for the return to the accused persons all documents and items such as a truck and confectionery that were taken from them.

Lawyers for the defence objected to the application filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions on the ground that it referred to the discharge of the "accused person" instead of "accused persons", which the state prosecutor admitted was a typographical error.

The court ordered a corrected version to be filed before it within 48 hours, while the case should be called next Monday to see if the orders had been complied with.

Immediately the court arose, armed plain clothes and uniform policemen handcuffed the accused persons and this result in a confusion and struggle to free the discharged persons.

Their lawyers protested that this could not be done in the courtroom but in the end order prevailed and the six persons were immediately whisked away into another court where the confusion continued until the court finally remanded them.

In the ensuing commotion, sympathisers of accused persons wept uncontrollably, while others cast aspersions that their judge was the Almighty God.

In the second court, which was presided over by another Court of Appeal judge with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, the issue of jurisdiction was raised by Mr Kwame Boafo Akufo, one of the lawyers for the defence, when the prosecutor wanted the court to remand the accused persons.

The other lawyers made submissions that the pleas of the accused persons should be taken and the charges read to them but the court overruled their application.

The six or so defence lawyers gave Mr Asiamah Sampong, the prosecutor, a hell of a time, heckling him but it was his wish that prevailed at the end of the day.

Earlier, the accused persons were granted bail, the conditions of which were later reviewed, and each was given 48 hours within which to deposit with the court registrar a title deed of property belonging to him or her, close relatives or friends.

Those who did not have passports were also ordered to deposit their voter's identity cards or other forms of identity together with two passport size photographs.

The court indicated that officials of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and the court registrar should ensure the verification and authentication of the title deeds at the Lands Title Registry within 21 days.

Augustina Abu, an importer; Yaw Atta Nkansah and Alfred Amedzi; the Director and the Deputy Director, respectively of Seko Clearing Agency; Kennedy Osei, Simon Fafa, both clearing agents, and Frank Abbey, a driver, are the accused persons.

The previous condition that required the accused persons to report daily to the NACOB officials and have two relatives each to serve as guarantors remains unchanged.

The court last week granted bail to the accused persons when they were arraigned and asked each of the accused persons to deposit the title deed to a property owned by him or her or a close relative and also surrender his or her passport to officials of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), who should verify the documents.

In addition, two relatives of each of the accused persons should serve as guarantors, while they should also report themselves to NACOB officials every day until otherwise directed.

They are facing a provisional charge of conspiracy to import narcotic drugs into the country without licence.

Their pleas have not been taken.
At the court's sitting, the judge asked the prosecution whether the accused persons had complied with the bail conditions and whether or not there were any difficulties, to which the prosecution replied that so far no difficulties had been encountered.

According to the facts of the case, the parcels were said to have been concealed in a cargo that had been declared as chewing gum from Ecuador in South America.

The container, consigned to Augustina Abu, was intercepted after it had gone through the scan at the port.

The consignee reported herself to the police later on, when three suspects, including the two clearing agents and the driver, had been arrested earlier by personnel of the Joint Port Control Unit to assist in investigations.

Other lawyers for the defence include Mr Amofa Agyemang and Mr R. V. C. Addai.

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