Acquit missing cocaine ‘owners’, says lawyer …as State seeks to forfeit accused’s property
LUSAKA lawyer Keith Mweemba has asked the court to acquit his clients now that the cocaine they were arrested for is no longer there.
And the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has filed a notice of motion in the Lusaka High Court to apply for a non-conviction based forfeiture of properties belonging to first accused Sydney Mwansa, on grounds that they are proceeds of crime. Recently, Chief Resident Magistrate Kenneth Mulife put Mwansa, taxi driver Teddy Matanda, and a Tanzanian bus conductor Shaibu Abilahi Likuta on their defence for allegedly trafficking in 24.19 kilograms of cocaine, which has since been swapped, and the accused persons were scheduled to open their defence yesterday. However, before defence could start, Mr. Mweemba applied to the court to issue an order for the purported exhibits to be subjected to a chemical examination and analysis. He argued that public analyst from the Food and Drug Control Laboratory at the Ministry of Health Marvis Mali Kwenda was not brought to court to testify whether what was brought to court was cocaine. Mr. Mweemba said the affidavit Ms. Kwenda swore, confirming that the substance was cocaine, was simply received on prima facie basis and that it was not conclusive evidence. “There are issues in public domain and various people including court officials have been arrested. The arresting officer told the court that the said drugs have been stolen. In view of the fact that the public analyst never came to this court to prove that the drug was cocaine, what evidence is there that what was left in the custody of the court was cocaine? “Is there evidence in this court that actually the so called drugs were not swapped long before being brought to court? How are the accused going to open their defence when the so called evidence has disappeared? Continuing with this trial is highly unconstitutional because the accused are highly prejudiced,” Mr. Mweemba said after which the case was adjourned to next Monday for the State to respond to his application. But in the notice of motion to apply for a non-conviction based forfeiture filed in the Lusaka High Court yesterday, arresting officer Jones Siasamba said in his affidavit in support of the notice that the 24 packets were 24.19 kilograms of cocaine according to results of a laboratory test. Mr. Siasamba said he has reasonable belief to suspect that the properties found in Mwansa’s possession, during his apprehension, are proceeds of crime because his financial position cannot add up to the property worth K3, 900,000 as per valuation report. “The same property and developments are as a result of money laundered to the same from proceeds obtained from trafficking in narcotic drugs which is a serious crime. Sydney Mwansa acquired the property using money derived from illegal activities, which include trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. “The property, in addition to it being proceeds of crime, is tainted property. Being in possession of property that is reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime is an offence,” he said.