The former deputy Attorney General under the John Kufuor administration is questioning the commitment of the Narcotic Control Board (NACOB) to fight cocaine in the country.
According to Osei Prempeh the NACOB boss Yaw Akrasi Sarpong has turned himself into an advocate for drug dealers contrary to anti-cocaine public pronouncements by NACOB officials.
This follows a bail condition granted to two suspected drug dealers by a Fast Track High Court in Accra.
The two were apprehended in October after 125 kg of cocaine was found hidden in their container which was part of a vessel thought to be carrying fuel shipped to the Tema port from the US.
After a thorough search through the vessel and its content the slaps of cocaine were found in the container leading to the arrest of the two.
The NACOB boss Mr. Akrasi Sarpong told Joy News’ Sammy Darko the suspects were granted bail to allow for NACOB to conduct thorough investigation.
The bail contradicts aspects of the law which makes drug related offences non-bailable.
But the NACOB boss says the bail condition was in the right direction.
He said the investigation which includes a trip to Panama to check on some leads, might take about seven months to conclude and would not be prudent to keep the suspects on remand.
“I think that the non-bailable is a very useful tool but not when you have to wait for seven months to get some evidence.”
He feared the suspects may be released by the court for lack of evidence if the board is unable to complete investigations in time for prosecution to take place judiciously.
“The intention was that we don’t want to keep them there for too long because if you keep them there for too long the next thing you see the judges will say that you have no evidence and they will acquit and discharge them and you would not have done justice to the rule of law,” he said.
Describing one of the suspects as a “hard working young man who imports fuel additives, lubricants for Goil,” the NACOB boss said there has to be an incontrovertible evidence for prosecution to take place.
He suspects the container might have been tempered with in Panama where the vessel was transshipped.
“By giving them bail I don’t think it is opposed to the spirit of the letter [of the constitution]," he said.
Akrasi Sarpong held that the Board has proposed a hefty surety as bail bond for the suspects which makes it almost implausible for the suspects to jump bail.
But the former deputy deputy Attorney General Osei Prempeh is unimpressed. He said the Kufuor administration as part of its effort to fight the drug menace promulgated the new law to prevent the “mischief” by drug barons.
“People were jumping bail. Big time drug people who were arrested; they go to court plead not guilty. After about five, six months, the courts will be compelled to grant them bail and the next thing they abscond.
“Cocaine is money, either their sureties will be able to pay the fine imposed on them by the court or the sureties themselves also jump bail," he explained.
He said three months after the law was amended to make drug offences non-bailable the state was able to jail a dozen of drug dealers.
Dealers who hitherto pleaded not guilty made a quick u –turn and pleaded guilty facilitating convictions, he said, adding "the law became a major tool in fighting the drug menace."
He dismissed the arguments by the NACOB boss that due to thorough investigations which might take a lot of time the suspects should be bailed.
“Common weed when people are arrested before the substance is sent to Standard Boards, dockets sent to the Attorney General, sent back to the police for the prosecution to be started people might have spent one year, two years on remand and now they are telling us that people who have been arrested with large quantities of cocaine have to be granted bail because if they are not granted bail they will be on remand for five, six months,” he said.
“I find it very ridiculous. There have been two bails- one in Takoradi,” he mocked, adding, "if you watching the trend it is people who engage in big time cocaine who are being granted bail."
He said it is only when NACOB adopts a lazy attitude to prosecuting the drug barons that a court will acquit suspects for lack of evidence.
“The president has admitted that some people are compromising with drug dealers. I believe it needs further investigation. Otherwise the small fishes will be caught, the big fishes, you bring the container when they are arrested, it came from Panama, it was broken in and the Executive Secretary for NACOB becomes the advocate for the drug dealers as he is doing now."
“If this is the attitude of NACOB then we give up the fight against drugs because the big timers will all go away.”
Friday, 17 December 2010