In the billion dollar of cocaine case on, the trial Magistrate Alagbe Taiwo Ade of Banjul Magistrates’ Court, on Thursday 17th February 2011 ordered the court to be moved to the NDEA premises.
When the case was called, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced his appearance for the State, while Lamin Camara announced his representation for some of the accused persons and Emmanuel E Chime represented the eight accused person (Ephraim Michel Chiduben).
The trial magistrate then directed that the court will sit at the NDEA premises where the suspected cocaine is kept for the purpose of tendering and possibly admitting it in evidence. This was then done.
At the NDEA premises, Commissioner Yusupha Jatta, a prosecution witness testified that he gave 85 bags of suspected cocaine to the exhibit keeper at the National Drug Enforcement Agency. He further testified that the bags are kept in a store and that they are going to tender it in evidence.
He said he can identify the bags through their contents and where they are contained i.e. rice bags/ sacks. Mr. Jatta pointed at a store with a red door and informed the court, “This is the store as you can see there are about five pad locks. The key to each pad lock is with the sister forces”. When asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions whether he can recall each of the sister forces, Jatta replied in the positive.
Jatta testified that the sister forces are the Customs, Police, NIA, NDEA, and the Army. He called on the sister forces to open the said store, but personnel of the sister forces were unable to open it. The DPP applied to the court for the pad locks to be broken; and the pad locks were broken before the court by using a hammer and chisel after the defence chose not to raise an objection.
After the breaking of the five pad locks, the DPP applied to the court for each of the sister forces to collect a pad lock that was broken which they did.
The bags of suspected cocaine were counted in the store but it was 86 bags that were found in the store. When Jatta was asked by the DPP to explain about how the 86 bags came about, Jatta told the court that at the time they discovered the 85 bags it was in the dark; but that the GRTS was invited to “show the public transparency” because when the photos were shown to the authorities they were not satisfied and they sent GRTS back to the bunker at the warehouse with a more powerful light; that they then found the 86th bag in the bunker and they called upon the Director General of NDEA (Benedict Jammeh) who went and recovered the 86th bag.
“I did not recover the 86th bag. It was GRTS that called my director to go and recover the bag which he did,” said Jatta. He added that the bags shown to him are the very bags and the suspected cocaine is in different colours namely, white, orange, black, etc. When asked by the DPP to tell the court the content of the bags, Jatta said that the substance was analyzed and it was said to be suspected cocaine.
The bag containing orange colour of suspected cocaine was admitted and marked as exhibit S1, The black colour of suspected cocaine was marked as S2 and the white Colour as S3.
At this juncture, the DPP made an application under section 97 of the Criminal Procedure Code concerning the 82 bags of cocaine that are yet to be tendered before the court.
The trial Magistrate ordered that the keys to the store be kept by the registrar of the court while security officers keep on watching.
Hearing continues on Tuesday 22nd February 2011.