Court grants bail to Tema cocaine suspect

By: Ivy Benson

Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu, Attorney General & Minister of Justice

The Fast Track High Court has granted bail to a second clearing agent, who is standing trial with three others over the importation of 125 slabs of cocaine, with a street value of GH¢10 million.

The court, presided over by Justice Mustpha Habib Logoh, yesterday, admitted Edward Kojo Arhin to GH¢450,000 bail with three sureties, one to be justified.

The court, which could not identify the connection of Anthony Wilson, Operations Manager of Phormlaplus African Company Limited, with the importation of the illicit drug in the facts presented by state prosecutors, has further ordered that the state should, within a week, come and justify the continuous incarceration of the accused person.

Arhin was granted bail after State Attorney Mrs. Evelyn Keelson did not oppose a request for bail applied for by the counsel of the former.

However, the court rejected the request to grant bail to Benjamin Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Phormlaplus African Company Limited.
Recently, Kyerewah Twum Barimah was granted bail because she was pregnant. This was done in accordance with the law that prevents pregnant women from being incarcerated.

Benjamin Armstrong, Anthony Wilson, Operations Manager of Phormlaplus African Company Limited, Kyerewah Twum Barimah, and Edward Kojo Arhin, both clearing agents, have pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy and importation of a narcotic drug without license, when they were arraigned before the court.

Arguing a motion brought before the court requesting a discharge of his clients, Mr. Joe Aboagye Debrah, counsel for Benjamin Armstrong and Anthony Wilson, noted that the importation of the items was financed through Letters of Credit (LC) issued by the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB).

According to counsel, his clients had no knowledge of the importation of the substance, adding that when the container arrived at the Tema Habour, there were other goods in it that were foreign to the accused persons.

Mr. Debrah further informed the court that it was Consolidated Shipping Service, which was the consignee of the container, as indicated by the bill of laden covering the exportation, stressing that the names of his clients never reflected on the documents.

It was the view of counsel that the consignee of the goods was in charge of the container, emphasising that his clients never instructed Consolidated Shipping Services to undertake any work for them.

“Maersk Line, the shipping company, and the Consolidated Shipping Services were in total control and possession of the container, which came from the United States of America,” the counsel told the court.

Mr. Debrah also noted that an official seal to the container was noted to have been broken before the accused person got to the port, which the official of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) knew about.

It was further the argument of the counsel that the constitutional rights of the accused persons were infringed upon, as the state did not conform to the mandatory 48 hours of presenting suspects to court when arrested.

Mr. Debrah pointed out that when the accused persons were arrested on October 18, 2010, it was not until October 26, 2010 that they were brought before the court for remand.

He was therefore, of the view that the incarceration of the accused persons was illegal and unconstitutional, noting that at the time the accused persons were brought before the court, their rights had already been trampled upon.

The counsel noted that in the circumstance, his clients should be discharged or granted bail for them to regain their liberty.

On her part, Mrs. Keelson noted that Benjamin Armstrong, who ordered the importation of fuel additives within which the illegal substances were found, went to the US to formalise the shipment of the goods he ordered.

Additionally, the prosecution noted that Anthony Wilson was the one who handed over the bill of laden to the clearing agents to clear the goods from the port.

According to Mr. Keelson, investigations were still on-going, as a month was not enough to complete an investigation of this nature, which involves a lot of activities, adding that Armstrong and Wilson, were at all material times in charge of the container, which was shipped into the country

She therefore, pointed out that the accused persons were in lawful custody since they were remanded by a court of competent jurisdiction, stressing that their liberties were never infringed upon.

In a brief fact of the case, the State Attorney told the court that in July 2010, Phormlaplus African Company Limited placed an order to America for the supply of fuel additives, which was shipped through various ports to Ghana.

According to her, Benjamin Armstrong instructed Kyerewah Twum Barimah to clear the goods from the Tema Port, adding that in clearing the goods, the container was found to contain 125 slabs of whitish substances suspected to be cocaine.

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