General News Fri, 22 Sep 2006

"Coke Committee" presents its report

Accra, Sept. 22, GNA - The Justice Georgina Wood Committee, which investigated two high profile cocaine-related cases, presented its report to Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of the Interior at a well attended ceremony at the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra on Friday.

The Report, whose content was not disclosed, is to be passed on promptly to the Attorney-General's Department for its comments and advice.

The Committee was set up July 4, 2006 to investigate the disappearance of 77 parcels of cocaine from MV Benjamin and an alleged 200,000 dollars bribe paid to Senior Police Officers by a 23-year-old woman, Ms Grace Asibi.

Ms Asibi is the girlfriend of a Venezuelan drug fugitive Vasquez Geraldo Duarte David, who is at the centre of the seizure of some 588 kilograms of cocaine from a house at East Legon in Accra.

Receiving the Report Mr Kan-Dapaah thanked Mrs Justice Wood and her team for the work done and urged the media to wait for the Government to issue its White Paper on it and not to speculate on the content.

Mr Kan-Dapaah recalled how the sittings of the Committee generated a lot of interest in the country with discussions in the media, saying "these discussions have raised the level of awareness of Ghanaians on the drug menace".

He said some of the media discussions rightly pointed out the abusive consumption and illicit trafficking as a real socio-economic plague whose rapid expansion had now become an issue of concern to all. Mr Kan-Dapaah said Ghana did not want to earn for itself the dubious reputation of being a major transit point for narcotics drugs. "This cannot and should not be tolerated," he said.

He said the country would continue to work with the global community to do all that it could to ensure that this negative identification of the country with narcotic drugs was completely erased. Mr Kan-Dapaah called for support and cooperation from individuals; groups; communities; nongovernmental organisations; religious and social institutions like the churches, mosques and voluntary associations. He said the Ministry had started consultations with knowledgeable individuals and institutions to reorganize and restructure the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) to make it more effective and efficient in the delivery of its functions.

"As apart of this exercise we are currently reviewing a European Union-funded study which drew up a National Plan of Action for NACOB but which was not implemented.

"We will assess the relevance and usefulness of the Action Plan, revise it as deemed necessary and start implementation."

The Interior Minister said Ghana would continue to receive support from the United Kingdom, US and French Governments as well as the European Union with the hope that the country would come up with a structure backed with the requisite logistics and financial resources to fight the drug war.

He said the Board for NACOB would be reconstituted within the next few days.

Presenting the Report, Mrs Justice Wood reiterated that the Committee was a fact-finding body and, therefore, "relied solely on evidence presented before it and nothing else".

She said the drug trade was an illicit trade, which thrived on corruption, which posed a real threat to a country's safety and security.

"It has the potential of not only destroying the major institutions of State but our human resource base as well. It is a known fact that the local consumption of narcotic drugs increases correspondingly with the increase in its import."

Mrs Justice Wood expressed the hope that the nation would rise to the challenge that now faced her with regard to the illicit trade, which had carved a negative image for the country as a major transit point. Quoting a line from the National Anthem: "And help us to resist oppressors' rule" she expressed the belief that "the word 'oppressors', when purposively construed would not necessarily be limited to political oppressors, but all persons, who through such illegal activities seek to threaten our peace and security and a fortiori our very existence".

Mr Joe Ghartey, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, said his outfit would study the Report and advise the Government accordingly. "We shall advise and prosecute not persecute without fear, favour, ill-will or hatred towards any person.

"We shall do what we have to do in accordance with the law. "Let us all remember the words of the President when he reminded us recently that no one is above the law.

"Let us also remember that in our legal jurisprudence everyone is innocent unless proven guilty. For those who we have grounds to believe are guilty, we shall seek to prove this in a court of law." The Ministry of the Interior gave the Committee a two-month mandate to complete its work but granted a week extension of time based on a request by the Committee to enable it to complete its work. The Committee was charged to determine the actual number of narcotic drug parcels on board the vessel immediately before it was intercepted and whether some of the parcels on board the vessel were removed before it was intercepted.

The Committee was to establish when and how the removal happened and recommend the appropriate punishment.

The Committee was also to investigate any other issues relating to the loss of narcotics drugs and make recommendations on how to avoid recurrence.

The Committee had the additional mandate of investigating the various allegations levelled against some Police Officers with respect to the seizure of a quantity of narcotic drugs at East Legon and to advise on appropriate actions against any person or persons found culpable.

About 30 people appeared before the Committee, which started its public hearing on July 25, 2006 with Ms Asibi, the prime witness in the East Legon drug seizure case, and Superintendent Edward Tabiri, Former Head of the Rapid Response Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Some of the key persons, who appeared before the Committee in relation to the East Legon case included the Director-General of (CID), Mr David Asante Apeatu and his Deputy Mr Patrick Ampewuah.

In their evidence, they denied any act of bribery by Ms Asibi. Mr Ampewuah also denied a claim by Ms Asibi that he threatened her life in a phone call.

Other witnesses in that case were Mrs Gina Blay, Managing Editor of the "Daily Guide" newspaper; Mrs Rosa Iris Dosoo, Secretary/Translator of Vasquez and Mr Robert Joseph Mettle Nunoo, who is also called Rojo. In the case of the MV Benjamin, the issue, which took centre stage, was a recording of a conversation relating to the disappearance of the cocaine from the ship at a meeting between some alleged drug dealers in the house of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye. The key witnesses in that tape recording, which came to be known as the "Kofi Boakye Tape", were arrested when they came to testify before the Committee.

The witnesses included Alhaji Issah Abass; Kwabena Amaning also called Tagor and Kwabena Acheampong.

Other witnesses who testified before the Committee in that case included Colonel Isaac Kwesi Akuoko, Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB); Mr Ben Ndego, Director of Operations of NACOB and Mr Kofi Bentum Quanson, a Former National Security Co-ordinator and the First Executive Secretary of NACOB.

Mr Patrick Kwateng Acheampong, Inspector General of Police, Mr Francis Poku, Minister of National Security and Mr Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Executive Director of the Food and Drugs Board; and some security personnel from the Ghana Navy and Ghana Air Force also testified before the Committee.
Source: GNA
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