Crime & Punishment of Thursday, 6 February 2014
Christian Sheriff Asem Darkei, the man at the centre of the shipment and disappearance of 77 parcels of cocaine, opened his defence Wednesday.
Darkei, also known as the Limping Man, told the Fast Track High Court in Accra, presided over by Mr Justice Mustapha Habib Logo, that he was a fisherman and did not deal in narcotics.
Consequently, he denied the charges of conspiracy to import, importation and exportation of narcotic drugs.
Led in evidence by his lawyer, Mr Isaac Aidoo, Darkei told the court that a friend asked him to purchase the MV Benjamin for him for fishing but that transaction did not materialise.
He gave the friend’s name only as Charwartey and said the friend provided him (Darkei) with $150,000 to be used to purchase the MV Benjamin.
He said the money was given to him by Charwartey in February 2006, adding that Charwatey took back the $150,000 after the purchase agreement failed.
He said the MV Benjamin, to his knowledge, imported fish and not narcotics. Cross-examination
After his evidence, a Principal State Attorney, Ms Yvonne Obuobisa Attakora, in her cross-examination, asked Darkei of his whereabouts in the course of the missing cocaine saga.
Darkei said at that time he was in his village at Kasseh receiving treatment for asthma and later moved to a village between Togo and Ghana for further treatment.
He said while in Togo, he shuttled between Togo and Nigeria for treatment.
Asked whether he was not aware that he had been declared wanted by the police in Ghana, he responded in the affirmative and said he was so ill at the time that his focus was on how to treat himself.
Darkei said he owned two vessels that were used for fishing and that his friend intended to buy the MV Benjamin for the importation of fish.
He mentioned the name of his company as Atiko Fisheries, while the two vessels were the MV Check One and the MV Alabanya.
Asked by Ms Attakora the date on which he travelled, he told the court that he travelled to his village on April 26, 2006.
Asked what he had used a loan of GH¢25,000 he secured from the UT Bank for, Darkei said it was used to purchase parts to replace damaged ones in his ship.
However, the State Attorney suggested to him that on the loan form, he had stated that he was going to use the facility to buy marine fuel.
Darkei said he finished paying for the loan on May 4, 2006.
Darkei is alleged to have played a major role in the shipment of 2,310 kilogrammes of cocaine, with a face value of $138.6 million, into the country in April 2006.
The prosecution closed its case on April 23, 2013.
Darkei was arrested by BNI officials at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital on February 2, 2012 upon a tip-off, after he had been pursued for years by the security agencies.
He has, however, pleaded not guilty to three counts of conspiracy, importation and exportation of narcotic drugs. Facts of the case
It is the case of the prosecution that around midnight on April 26, 2006, the MV Benjamin, reportedly carrying about 77 parcels of cocaine, with each parcel weighing 30 kilogrammes, docked at Kpone/Tema and discharged the parcels.
The parcels were offloaded into a waiting vehicle which carried them away.
According to the prosecution, in the course of investigations, Darkei’s name featured prominently as the importer and/or owner of the drug.
He was said to be the person who had chartered the vessel at a cost of $150,000 to tow another vessel from Guinea to Ghana and, subsequently, carted the alleged 77 parcels.
The disappearance of the cocaine led to the constitution of the Justice Georgina Wood Committee and the subsequent trial of persons alleged to have played various roles in the importation.
Hearing continues on February 10, 2014.