Judicial cocaine probe begins
Accra, Dec. 15, GNA - Three police officers on Thursday appeared before the four-member fact finding committee established by the Chief Justice (CJ), Mrs Justice Georgina T. Wood, to investigate circumstances under which 1,020 grammes of cocaine (exhibits) turned into sodium bicarbonate.
The officers, who took turns to testify to the committee, were Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Kofi Adzei Tuadzera, Head of Narcotics Control Unit of Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Lance Corporal Thomas Ayekase and Detective Constable Joseph Owusu, both police investigators.
Led in evidence by counsel, DSP Tuadzera said he took over as head of the Unit on August 27, 2010, and as part of the handing over notes, were several exhibits including the 1,020 grammes of cocaine exhibit found on Nana Ama Martin, who was charged subsequently with a drug related offence.
He said although the Police administration had an exhibit room, drugs such as cocaine were normally kept in a safe in his office under lock and key.
DSP Tuadzera said due to the nature of drugs, whenever they were needed in court they were normally given to a Senior Police Officer under tight escort to the court premises.
He said not until recently, all exhibits including cocaine were kept in the Police new exhibits room, and the exhibit in question had been with Narcotics Control Unit of the CID since August 2008 and he gave it out on September 28, 2011 and same was tendered in evidence.
“That was the last day I sighted the said the exhibit,” he added.
DSP Tuadzera said he was surprised when his junior officers informed him that the court had not ordered for the destruction of the exhibits after it had been tendered in evidence and he wrote several times to his superiors over the issue.
“My Lord, I realised that the procedure had been broken as such I wrote a report to my superiors.”
When the committee asked whether he could furnish it with writings to his superiors, he promised to produce them at the next sitting.
Answering questions under cross-examination by Mr Robert Kingsely Awuah, counsel for Mr Eric Kyei-Baffour, the trial judge, DSP Tuadzera said he knew the exhibit was cocaine and that a Police Forensic report confirmed that.
He explained that the exhibit in question was kept in his office because “we wanted to safeguard it.”
In his opinion, DSP Tuadzera said he did not need any clearance to keep exhibits in the office.
Next to mount the witness box was Detective Corporal (DC) Thomas Ayekase, the first investigator.
He said soon after the exhibit was tested by Police Forensic Laboratory, he handed it over to Mr Thomas Obah, then Narcotics Control Unit Commander for safe keeping.
DC Ayekase said following his transfer from the Central Crime Unit and Amasaman District Police Station, the case docket was given to Detective Lance Corporal Joseph Owusu.
DC Ayekase said later he was asked to appear at the court to tender Police report on the exhibit and the exhibit itself.
He said counsel for Nana Ama Martin, Mr Kwablah Senanu did not object to the tendering of the substance as same was marked and admitted in evidence.
Answering questions under cross-examination, DC Ayekase said after the exhibit was tendered it was handed over to the Circuit Court's Registrar.
“It was the following day that counsel for the accused raised objection over the exhibit saying the substance should be retested. I was surprised at that.”
DC Ayekase said the judge upheld the objection and subsequently ordered that the substance should be tested again at the Ghana Standard Authority.
He admitted that when Nana Ama Martin was “mysteriously” granted bail by a High Court, she absconded and it took the intervention of the surety to ensure that she was arrest again.
Detective Constable Joseph Owusu indicated to the committee that in 2009, he inherited the case docket of Nana Ama Martins.
DC Owusu said he was instructed by the Circuit Court hearing the matter to accompany the Court's Registrar to the Ghana Standard Authority on September 28, 2011, but could not accompany the registrar on the same day but both of them went there the following day.
He told the committee that the exhibit was in the custody of the Court's Registrar.
Under cross-examination, DC Owusu denied that instead of him being vigilant, he decided to relax in spite of the Court's orders.
Hearing Continues tomorrow.
On December 14, Chief Justice Wood set up a committee of enquiry to probe how cocaine kept in the exhibit room at a registrar's office of a circuit court turned into sodium bicarbonate.
The cocaine exhibit tendered in evidence to the court got swapped with the sodium bicarbonate leading to the discharge of the accused, Nana Ama Martin, who had been standing trial since 2008 for allegedly possessing narcotic drug.
The police and the court are in a blame game, leading to a petition to the CJ to look into her stable for possible culprits.
The committee that was tasked to unravel the circumstances surrounding the swapped cocaine, is chaired by an Appeals Court Judge, Mrs Justice Agnes Dodzi, and other members are High Court Judge, Mr Justice Abdulai Iddrisu, the Chief Judicial Registrar, Mr Nii Boye Quartey and Deputy Director of Human Resources of the Judicial Service, Mr John Bannerman.
Mr Andrew Amegatse is counsel to the Committee.