Tears flowed at an Accra Fast Track High Court on Wednesday when two self-confessed drug barons, Kwabena Amaning aka Tagor, and Alhaji Isaah Abass were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment each with hard labour.
Relations of the two convicts wept uncontrollably as they were whisked away under heavy police escort from the courtroom to begin their sentences.
The judgement caught the accused, prosecution, defence, journalists and relatives by surprise, as the judgement date was to have been agreed on Wednesday.
Tagor was in POP and on clutches following an injury he sustained while playing football in custody.
The court found Tagor guilty for conspiracy, engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs because he confessed to about his drug transactions.
He was, however, acquitted and discharged for buying and supplying narcotic drugs.
The court presided over by Mr Justice Jones Victor Dotse, a Court of Appeal Judge, also found Abass, 54, guilty for conspiracy and engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs.
The court, however, acquitted and discharged him on charges of supplying narcotic drugs.
The court ordered that the sentences should take effect from the day of their arrest. Meanwhile the Serious Fraud Office last year, confiscated assets of the convicts.
The two were said to have made confessions about their previous dealing in the drug business at the residence of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye in May last year.
The said conversation was recorded and anonymously dropped at the Georgina Wood Committee set up by the government to investigate the missing 76 parcels of cocaine on board MV Benjamin, which docked at Tema last year.
They pleaded not guilty.
Handing down the sentences, the court said it took into consideration the drug menace in the country and the fact that the nation was being used as a distribution point and the harmful effects of drugs among men and women.
“With the upsurge of the drugs in the country it behoves all of us to come together to fight the drug menace in the country,” the court said.
The court said sentences should be deterrent to others and corrective adding that it took into consideration the prime age of the accused persons.
The court noted that sentences were not prescribed by law and for that matter the court only used its discretion.
The court was quick to say that some portions of the law had prescribed a minimum of 10 years.
Before handing the sentences, Mr Ellis Owusu Fordjour, who represented Tagor, prayed the court to take into consideration the fact that his client was a first offender and pleaded that he should be dealt with leniently.
Mr Mohammed Attah who represented Abass drew the attention of the court of the days his client had spent in custody and prayed for the minimum sentence.
Ms Gertrude Aikins, Acting Director Public Prosecution (DPP), drew the court attention to the various stages in the drug business.
According to her, while the users were fed by pushers, the pushers were also fed by the barons and prayed the court to met out punishment befitting the status of drug barons.
Touching on the ACP Kofi tape, the court noted
that the defence did not object to the contents of the tape which was earlier authenticated by an international forensic voice expert.
It praised the work of the international expert, Professor John Peter French who had told the court that the said meeting was conducted in a free environment and the convicts were not coerced in any way.
The court said it was impressed with the way they took professional and technical steps to work on the tape which had not been edited, adding that the transcripts tendered in evidence had not been in breach of the country’s laws.
It noted that they were authentic, accurate and relevant to the court during the trial.
On the contents of the tape, the court disputed the convicts’ assertion that they were baiting ACP Boakye, adding that, it was a clear conversation and questioned why accused could confess about their previous drug deals before getting ACP Boakye to talk.
In the case of ACP Kofi Boakye, the court said it was not comfortable with the way prosecution was unable to indict him.
“I agree that the prosecution of persons had been entrusted to the Attorney General (A-G) and it was only the AG who had the power to institute criminal action against persons,” the Court noted.
The court said “as a matter fact the A-G should have called him as material witness, the failure to call him has been fatal to the court since most portions on the tape had been attributed to him.”
In the case of Ben Ndego it did not see the importance of the accused calling him to testify if Colonel Isaac Akuoku (Rtd) did not make an impact in the case of the defence.
Touching on the investigations conducted into the matter, the court commended Detective Inspector Charles Adaba for good job done.
According to the court Detective Inspector Adaba carried out strict, professional and detailed investigations by finding clues to some terminologies such as goods meaning cocaine, key representing kilogrammes of drugs used in the underworld of drug barons.
The court disputed assertions by some defence witnesses who sought to rope Detective Inspector Adaba into the case.
“It was never true that he accompanied Detective Inspector Justice Oppong, who was assigned to investigate the matter when they went to Ada to arrest Sheriff Asem Dake aka Limping Man and the man behind the importation of the 76 parcels of cocaine on board MV Benjamin.
The court however said it was not impressed with the way Detective Oppong conducted investigation into the matter when he was asked to arrest Sheriff and the delay in searching the convicts’ homes.
It urged superiors who were placed at the helm of affairs to supervise their subordinates in cases such as this.
The court criticised the prosecution’s failure to investigate the case that Tagor had bought a house for his driver, the late Nana Kofi.
The prosecution called 11 witnesses to make their case while the defence team called four.
The case of the prosecution was that the accused were self-confessed drug barons who, since 2004, had been actively engaged in activities of promoting and establishing various enterprises relating to narcotic drug.
In May, last year news broke out about the missing of 76 parcels of cocaine on MV Benjamin/Adede 11 and security set out to investigate the matter.
ACP Boakye invited the convicts to his residence at Kanda where the convicts confessed to previous deals in the drug business.
The meeting was recorded and a copy of the tape was dropped at the Georgina Wood Committee set up by government to investigate the disappearance of the drugs.
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