General News of Saturday, 17 January 2015
General Secretary of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) Johnson Asiedu Nketia has described as a “waste of everybody’s time”, the setting up of a Committee in 2006 by then-President John Kufuor, chaired by Justice Georgina Wood – the current Chief Justice, but a Supreme Court Judge at the time, to investigate the circumstances that led to the disappearance of 77 parcels of cocaine aboard a vessel that berthed in Ghana’s territorial waters.
“Why should a Deputy Minister or a Minister set up a committee to investigate a matter appointing a Supreme Court judge to be the chairperson of that investigation? And there were no legal processes: The President could have established something that has basis on the constitution….where is the cocaine? You could see from the word go that this committee cannot do the work…”
“The Committee members may not by themselves be the ones doing the cover up…but if you set up a committee, the results of whose work cannot be enforced in court, you are wasting everybody’s time,” Asiedu Nketia told Richard Sky on the point-blank segment of Citi FM’s Eyewitness News on Wednesday January 14, 2015.
On April 26, 2006, Ghana’s security authorities intercepted 77 parcels of cocaine weighing 2,310 kilogrammes with a street value of $138.6 million (at the time) aboard a vessel named MV Benjamin.
The Wood committee was put together on July 4, 2006, to delve into the matter.
After its work, it recommended the prosecution of Kwabena Amaning a.k.a Tagor, Issah Abass, Kwabena Acheampong and Mohamed Moro.
On November 28, 2007, “Tagor” and Alhaji Issah Abass were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment each in hard labour for conspiracy and engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotic drugs.
However, they were released on July 25, 2009 when they appealed against the High Court’s decision.
Also, on July 2008, an Accra Fast Track High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Anin Yeboah (now a Supreme Court judge), convicted and sentenced Joseph Kojo Dawson, the owner of the MV Benjamin vessel and Managing Director of Dashment Company Limited; Isaac Arhin, sailor; Phillip Bruce Arhin, mechanic; Cui Xian Li, the vessel engineer; and Luo Yui Xing, sailor, to 25 years in prison in hard labour.
Bruce-Arhin, however, died barely three weeks after his conviction. The convicts, including the deceased, were found guilty on charges of using property for narcotic offences, engaging in prohibited business relating to narcotics and possession of narcotic drugs without lawful authority.
A sixth accused person, Pak Bok Sil, a Korean national, was, earlier on Tuesday, October 16, 2007 acquitted and discharged by the court, which ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove a case against him.
A main suspect, Christian Sheriff Asem Darkey, alias ‘Limping Man,’ who went at large at the time – with the help of some police officers – but was later arrested in February 2012 as the brainchild behind the shipment and disappearance of the narcotics, was on April 10, 2014 sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison with hard labour by the Accra Fast Track High Court.
Similarly prosecuted were the security officials who aided ‘Limping man’ to escape the State’s security radar with 76 of the parcels weighing 2,280 kilogrammes. They included three policemen who were in December 2007 sentenced to a total of 75 years imprisonment with hard labour by the Accra Fast Track High Court.
Sergeant David Nyarko, Detective Corporal Dwamena Yabson and General Lance Corporal Peter Bondorin, were sentenced to serve 25 years imprisonment each after the court found them guilty of receiving an unspecified amount in US dollars from Darkey and subsequently allowing him to flee.
Bondorin died in prison a few months after his conviction.
At about midnight on April 26, 2006, the vessel, docked at Kpone/Tema and discharged the cocaine.
According to the facts presented by the prosecution, the said quantity of narcotic was offloaded into a waiting vehicle which carted it away. According to the prosecution, in the course of investigations, Sheriff’s name featured prominently as the importer and/or owner of the drug.
He was said to be the person who chartered the vessel at a cost of $150,000 to tow another vessel from Guinea to Ghana. Sheriff, the prosecution noted, was the person who carted the alleged 77 parcels on the ship’s arrival at Kpone.