Soda Cocain Probes Begins
The committee of enquiry set up by the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, to probe the cocaine-turned sodium bicarbonate (baking or soda powder) saga, commenced sitting yesterday with an assurance to get to the root of the matter.
At its first public hearing, three policemen connected with the case made appearance showing how the seal was broken to the committee chaired by Appeal Court judge, Justice Mrs Agnes Dordzie.
The policemen narrated the various roles they played in the case in which 1.018kilogram of cocaine exhibit tendered in as evidence to a circuit court in 2008, allegedly got swapped with baking powder.
Detective Corporal Thomas Anyinkese, who was the first to appear before the Dordzie committee, said on August 28, 2008, the personnel of the Panthers Unit from the Police headquarters arrested the lady at the centre of the raging controversy, Nana Ama Martin, with a slab of a substance suspected to be cocaine in a handbag.
After her arrest, he noted that the police, together with the suspect, signed and sealed it in an envelope.
The following day, August 29, 2008, he said, the substance was handed over to the unit commander, Thomas Koba, whilst Nana Ama was put before a court on September 12, 2008 where she was remanded into prison custody.
The case was then referred to the Attorney-General's office for advice at which point he was transferred to another unit.
For this reason, Corporal Anyinkese indicated, the docket on the case was subsequently handed over to another person and that it was on December 27, 2010 when he received a message to go and give evidence in the case.
Robert Kinsley Yeboah, who represented the trial judge in the case, Judge Eric Kyei Barfour, cross-examined Corporal Anyinkese.
On the question of how the seal on the envelope was opened, Detective Corporal Anyinkese said in the courtroom, there was no objection raised concerning the substance or the opening of the envelope, stating, 'So I am of the view that the envelope was intact when it was sent to court, and after the exhibit in court, it was handed over to the court clerk.'
He noted, 'It was when the substance got to the court that the seal was broken' and that 'it was during cross examination on 28th that the defence council said he did not believe that the substance was the same and should therefore be re-tested.'
That, he said, was what compelled the judge to order a re-examination of the substance.
The second witness who testified before the committee, Detective Constable Joseph Owusu of the Narcotics Unit at the CID headquarters, told the committee that in 2009, he inherited a docket from Detective Corporal Thomas Nana Kese.
He however noted that in the course of the prosecution, the court granted the suspect bail after which she failed to show up in court on about three occasions.
Justice Mrs. Agnes Dodzi, Chairperson on the commitee
This, he said, was what made the court to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of Nana Ama somewhere in the year 2010, indicating that when the accused was re-arrested, she was taken to court and was re-charged.
When the case was handed to him, Cpl Owusu narrated, the Unit commander handed the exhibit on September 6, 2011 to him and was accompanied by one Detective Inspector Sampson Nketia and Inspector Eshon Apaloo, who were fully armed.
Because the case was adjourned to September 13, 2011, they handed the exhibit to the unit commander.
The last person to testify for the day was head of the Narcotics Unit, DSP Kofi Adjei Tuadzra, who narrated that he was posted to the CID headquarters where he took over the case.
'I appended my signature on the envelope which was then sealed to be taken to the Standards Board. Even though I signed on the envelope, I did not know what was in it because it was sealed,' he noted.
Other members of the committee are Justice Abdullah Iddrisu, a High Court Judge and John Bannerman, Chief Registrar and Nii Boye Quartey, Deputy Human Resource Director, is the Secretary.
Mrs Justice Dodzie urged witnesses to cooperate with the committee, saying nothing would hinder the proceedings.
Meanwhile, reports say Vice President John Mahama has directed the police service to suspend its investigations into the missing cocaine.
Mr. Mahama gave the directive after a meeting with Chief Justice Wood; the National Security Coordinator, Larry Gbevlo-Lartey and the Chief of Staff, Henry Martey Newman.
The Vice-President, instead, has charged the BNI to institute criminal investigations into the case whilst the Chief Justice conducts a fact-finding probe.
The two investigations are running concurrently. They have up to December 22, 2011 to present their reports.
By Stella Danso Addai