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Crime & Punishment of Sunday, 15 December 2013

Source: Daily Guide

Cocaine gang jailed

The five suspects arrested in Sekondi in the Western Region, in connection with the importation of 400 kilogrammes of suspected cocaine worth $50 million from British Guyana, using a semi-submarine vessel called Atiyah Ex Alisam, were yesterday convicted by an Accra Circuit Court.

This was after Justice C.K. Honyenugah, a Court of Appeal Judge, sitting with additional responsibility as a Circuit Court judge listened to their explanations about how they arrived in the country with the cocaine.

The trial judge fell short of handing them their sentences because the principal state attorney in the case, Essiama Asampong, told the court that even though the results of the test of the drugs were out, the exhibits were not in court.

He also said the drug analysis expert from the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) was not present to explain to the court the results of the test, prompting the trial judge to adjourn the matter.

The crew captain, Percival Junior Curt, who pleaded guilty with explanation, was the first to take the witness stand.

He told the court that they had been assigned by two men, one of whom is a Nigerian, to meet some persons at the high seas to bring cocaine to someone in Ghana.

According to him, they set off from British Guyana and met two men in the said boat on the high seas, noting that the substance was offloaded onto their vessel after they had inspected it.

He said they brought the drugs to Ghana and while on the country’s territorial waters, they were informed that the Ghana Navy had gotten wind of their presence and was on their way.

The suspect said the Navy arrived, and after some interrogation, they were arrested and arraigned before court.

Samuel Monty and Singh Primchand, who\ also pleaded guilty with explanation, repeated what their captain told the court.

Miller Ronald O’Neil and Seth Grant had earlier pleaded guilty simplicita and said they were placing themselves at the mercy of the court.

The trial judge, after their narration, said once the suspects had admitted knowledge of the substance, their narration could not be said to have amounted to not guilty.

The case has consequently been adjourned to January 7, 2014.

They were charged with engaging in criminal conspiracy to commit offence, by engaging in business relating to narcotic drugs, importation of narcotic drugs without lawful authority and possessing narcotic drugs without lawful authority.

Seth Grant, a Ghanaian, Samuel Monty, an Australian and Singh Primchand, a Guyanese, all pleaded guilty with explanation.

The crew have been remanded at the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) at the request of Esiama Asampong, the principal state attorney.

The ship was travelling from Guyana when it was detained and escorted by Ghana Naval Ship, Yaa Asantewaa, to the Sekondi Naval Base.

The accused persons, together with the substances, were flown to Accra and handed over to the National Security and the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) for investigations.

Narrating events which led to the arrest of the cocaine suspects, Mr Sampong said Curt was an engineer and O’Neil was the crew captain while the remaining suspects were seamen.

According to him, during the third week of November 2013, information reached NACOB of the suspicious movements of a semi-sub marine called Atiyah Ex Alisam, with registration number 000471, heading towards the territorial waters of Ghana.

He said the vessel, sailing from British Guyana George-Town, was said to be carrying illicit drugs. Consequently, the vessel was being monitored in coordination with security agencies from NACOB, the Ghana Navy and National Security.

The principal state attorney said on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, NACOB, in collaboration with the Western Naval Base in Takoradi within the Ghanaian territorial waters, intercepted the vessel with the accused persons on board.

Explaining further, he said a thorough search on the vessel revealed 21 sacks of fertilizer smeared with engine oil, all containing 414 slabs of compressed, whitish substances suspected to be narcotics, which were concealed in the hatches of the vessel.

In addition, he stated that a field test was instantly conducted, and it tested positive for cocaine.

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