Three Guyanese who imported 414 kilogrammes of cocaine into the country were yesterday sentenced to a total of 34 years’ imprisonment with hard labour by the Fast Track High Court in Accra.
Percival Junior Court, an engineer; Samuel Monty and Singh Princhad, both seamen, were found guilty on three counts of engaging in criminal conspiracy, importation of narcotic drug without lawful authority and possession of narcotic drug.
Court, 53, and Monty, 47, were sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment on each count, while Princhad was slapped with a 10-year jail term.
The presiding judge, Mr Justice Clemence J. Honyenuga, ordered that the vessel which was used to cart the drugs to Ghana on November 19, 2013 be confiscated to the state.
The vessel is the MV Atiyah Ex-Alisam, with registration number 000471.
According to the trial judge, the prosecution, which was led by a Chief State Attorney, Mr Asiamah Sampong, was able to lead evidence to prove that the convicts had conspired, illegally imported and had possession of the narcotic drug.
The convicts, who wore white shirts, looked on pensively as the trial judge read the judgement, which lasted two hours.
The drug had a street value of $60 million as of the time the convicts were apprehended.
The court took into consideration Princhad’s health status before sentencing him. His lawyer had prayed it to deal leniently with him because he was suffering from hypertension, diabetes and an ear infection.
In passing sentence, Mr Justice Honyenuga said the court took into consideration the plea for mitigation from the lawyers of the convicts, the number of months they had been on remand, the sentences passed on their co-conspirators, the nature and gravity of the offence and the value of the narcotic drug.
The court, on January 7, 2014, sentenced two accomplices of the convicts to a total of 35 years’ imprisonment on the same charges.
They were Miller Ronald O’Neil, the captain of the vessel, and Seth Grant, a Ghanaian based in Brazil.
O’Neil had a 20-year jail term, while Grant would spend the next 15 years in prison.
In its two-hour judgement, the court held that the prosecution was able to prove that the convicts had a ‘co-ordinated and well-calculated travel arrangement to carry the cocaine to Ghana’.
It said the convicts knew the nature and quality of the drug they possessed.
Dismissing the defence put up by the convicts, it held that issues bordering on narcotic drugs bounded on possession and not ownership.
The trial judge said the convicts had confessed committing the crime in their statements to the police and noted that those statements could have been relied on by the court without any evidence being adduced.
That notwithstanding, he held that the position of the convicts in court contradicted their statements.
He, accordingly, described the defence put up by the convicts in court as an ‘afterthought’.
Ignorance is no excuse
Touching on Court’s explanation of acting on the orders of someone without knowing the exact nature of the goods carted into the vessel, the court held that ignorance was not an excuse.
Citing legal authorities to reinforce its decision, the court held that ‘not all orders are legal’ and maintained that obeying illegal orders from a superior officer did not absolve one from an offence.
It said the statements of the accused persons were proven to have been given voluntarily.
According to the court, the prosecution led ‘overwhelming evidence’ to prove the guilt of the convicts beyond reasonable doubt.
The prosecution, it noted, led incontrovertible evidence to prove that each of the convicts dealt directly with the owner of the cocaine, nicknamed Fatman, who had since absconded.
It said there was evidence to the effect that the convicts stopped on the high seas to offload the 414 slabs of cocaine into the vessel.
Facts of the Case
During the third week of November 2013, the Narcotics Control Board received information concerning the suspicious movement of the MV Atiyah Ex-Alisam, which was heading towards Ghana.
According to the said information, the vessel was from British Guyana – George Town.
As a result, the security agencies, including the Ghana Navy, the Police Service and the National Security were alerted.
The vessel was eventually intercepted by the Western Naval Command in Takoradi on November 19, 2013.
A search on the vessel revealed 21 fertiliser sacks smeared with engine oil containing 414 slabs of a compressed substance. A field test conducted indicated that the substance was cocaine.
At the time of the arrest, O’Neil, the captain, said the drug was to be delivered in Ghana but could not mention the name of the recipient.
According to him, the drug was to be delivered on the high seas for a fee of $50,000, while the rest of the crew was to take various sums of money.
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