Faulty Recording System Halts Trial
PROCEEDINGS at an Accra Fast Track High Court trying Craig Alexander Pinnick, a British national in connection with the 588.33 kilogrammes cocaine case came to an abrupt end yesterday because of a faulty recording system.
The attention of the trial judge, Mr Justice P. Baffoe-Bonnie, was drawn to the faulty machine after a prosecution witness, Mr Benjamin Ndego, Head of Operations at the Ghana Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), had testified in the case and was being cross-examined by counsel for the accused.
Consequently, the case and all others scheduled for hearing had to be adjourned to allow further work on the machine which was returned from the repairer's shop on Monday.
Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie said the tape would be played to find out if there would be the need to invite the witness to give his evidence in chief again or testify under cross-examination because some aspects of the recorded evidence were not clear.
The accused had pleaded not guilty to three counts of conspiracy, importation of narcotic substances without authority and possession of narcotic drugs without authority.
Already, six persons, namely Kevin Disdale Gorman, 59, an American, Mohammed Ibrahim Kamil, a Ghanaian, David J.Logan, 43, Frank D.Laverick,43, Alan Hodgson, 45, all Britons and Sven Herb, 45, a German, have been jailed 20 years each by an Accra High Court in connection with the case.
They were found guilty of the offence of conspiracy and importation of narcotic drugs without authority and were sentenced.
At the time the security officers arrested them, Pinnick, who is the owner of the Captain's Lodge at Prampram Beach, escaped arrest but was arrested on July 24, 2004 by Interpol in Burkina Faso, and handed over to Ghanaian security agencies.
The 588.33 kilogrammes of cocaine had a street value of $140 million and in the course of the trial the court gave an order for it to be destroyed.
Led in evidence by Mr Asiamah Sampong, a Principal State Attorney, Mr Ndego identified the accused and told the court that in 2002, NACOB received intelligence report from the UK that some members of an international drug trafficking syndicate were to travel to Ghana.
He said that information led to a search in a house at Community 11 in Tema on January 7, 2004 during which the quantity of cocaine weighing 588.33 kilogramme was discovered.
He said those connected with the drug were arrested and after going through trial they were found guilty and accordingly sentenced.
Mr Ndego said three days after the arrest of the convicted drug dealers, Pinnick left the country but was arrested in Burkina Faso following a tip-off from Interpol, France.
According to the witness, when he cautioned the accused and asked him to write his statement, he objected and said he would rather write an ordinary statement.
The statement was tendered in court after initial objection by counsel for the accused on the grounds that his client wrote the statement under extreme duress.
In the statement, the accused wrote that on December 31, 2003, Gorman approached him that he had some fish on board a boat and wanted it to berth at the beach but found it difficult to do so.
He said the others, assisted by his watchman and a fisherman, helped Gorman to offload the consignment and later taken away in a van driven by Kamel.
Pinnick said in March, he decided to travel home to discuss some business with Captain Roger Madison, owner of the Captains Lodge and Director of Africa Marine Surveyors Limited.
Mr Ndego further said that after the arrest of the jailed drug traffickers, a letter was found in the Community 11 house and this was dated October 19 and written by the company to the Chief of Immigration requesting that Frank Laverick's visa should be renewed to enable him to travel to Thailand for a marine business.
He said when the passport of the accused was handed over to the NACOB by the Burkinabe officials they realised that he entered Togo on March 16, 2004 and spent five days before going to Benin for a transit visa to travel.
During cross-examination, Mr Ndego said the intelligence report mentioned the names of Laverick, Hodgson and Herb who were identified on arrival at the airport and not the accused.
Asked by counsel to tell the court on what date the intelligence report was received and when those identified arrived in the country, witness said it was a process and he could not recollect the dates. Hearing continues on Thursday.