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General News of Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Source: GNA

Minister testifies before "Cocaine C'ttee"

Accra, Aug. 15, GNA - Mr Francis Poku, Minister of National Security, on Tuesday told the Georgina Wood Committee that as far was he was concerned, President John Agyekum Kufuor never had a copy of the alleged tape recordings between Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye and some suspected drug barons in his (Boakye's) house.

He said in his dealings with President Kufuor, Chairman of the National Security Council, all security-related materials and documents of security interest that reached the President were handed over to him (Mr Poku) as the national security head as soon as possible.

"In this instance, I can confirm that the President (Kufuor) requested the security agencies to endeavour to obtain a copy of the tape. The Minister of the Interior obtained the tape from a journalist. However, when it was transcribed it was found to be a very short version and contained not much of security interest," Mr Poku said.

Mr Poku said he knew of no other tape apart from the five-minute one that the Minister of the Interior had secured and even that he had not bothered to listen because a number of committees were dealing with the issues.

Mr Poku said these when he testified before the Committee investigating the alleged disappearance of 77 parcels of cocaine, each weighing 30 kilograms from a ship, MV Benjamin, at Tema. It is also investigating the alleged bribery of Policemen following the seizure of 588 kilograms of cocaine from East Legon in Accra.

His testimony attracted little cross-examination by ACP Boakye and his counsel who were present.

Mr Poku, who said his attention had been drawn to a statement by ACP Boakye to the Committee that he notified him (Mr Poku) about the meeting in his house, denied any knowledge of the meeting before it took place adding that he was out of the country at the time.

He said he remembered, however, that ACP Boakye told him on his return from the trip that he (ACP Boakye) had met certain persons in his house and the people appeared to have some knowledge about the whereabouts of the drugs that were diverted by unknown persons from the ship when it docked at Tema.

Mr Poku said he advised ACP Boakye to report the case to a three-member Committee, consisting of J. K. Mensah of the National Security Secretariat, Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrick Ampewuah, who is the Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and Alhaji Malik Adam of the Bureau for National Investigations (BNI). He said this was the Committee he had set up to investigate some other cocaine related cases involving the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).

Touching on the cocaine case involving some Venezuelans at the East Legon, he said the National Security Council was informed in November 2005 that the CID had arrested two Venezuelans at East legon in connection with the discovery of 588 kilograms of a substance suspected to be cocaine.

He said everything appeared to be going on well with investigations until Ms Grace Asibi, a girlfriend of the fugitive suspect, publicly alleged that Superintendent Edward Tabiri had extorted 170,000 dollars from her.
Mr Poku said he never met Ms Asibi until a journalist called him to say that Ms Asibi's life was in danger.

He said it was then that he asked that she was brought to his house and arrangements were made for her to have guards, who protected her. Mr Poku said in consultation with the Minister of the Interior a taskforce was set up to investigate her allegations. Members of that taskforce were Mr Gordon Zobla of the BNI; ASP Felix Mawusi and Superintendent Bright Oduro both of the CID.
He said a copy of that report had been submitted to the Minister of the Interior and could be made available to the Georgina Wood Committee upon request.

Mr Poku said in view of the extraordinary local and international interest that the two cocaine cases had aroused, President Kufuor approved the setting up of the Georgina Wood Committee that would sit in public and give the opportunity to all Ghanaians with information to be able to testify.

Mr Poku said as Minister of National Security, he believed that the proceedings would help the public about the threat to national security that the cocaine scandal could pose to the State.

He, therefore, appealed to all political parties, religious and pressure groups and the youth to support the security and the law enforcement agencies in the fight against the drug menace.

Mr Poku appealed to Ghanaians not to deal with the issue at stake in a partisan manner saying there were real fears that the drug barons could threaten all political institutions by infiltrating into them to destabilize the democratic governance of the country.

He said a year before the cocaine cases became an issue in Ghana, intelligence agencies received reports that some drug syndicates operating from certain specific countries were targeting Ghana as a destination for the drugs.

Mr Poku said the report also indicated that the syndicates were helping some Ghanaians to acquire boats that would be used to off-load the drugs from the vessels and convey them to certain locations in the country for transit to European markets.

He said since that report was received the intelligence services and the National Security Council had been on the alert hence the number of arrest made of late.

Mr Joe Debrah, Counsel for ACP Boakye, said their statement did not contradict what Mr Poku had said. He said ACP Boakye did not say that he informed Mr Poku before the meeting was held.

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