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State averts mini trial in drug trafficking case

2021-06-14  Roland Routh

State averts mini trial in drug trafficking case
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Roland Routh

State advocate Solomon Kanyemba last week narrowly averted being pushed into a trial within a trial after defence lawyer Sisa Namandje strongly objected to evidence in the drug trafficking trial of Grant Noble (36) and Dinath Azhar (62).

Kanyemba introduced evidence that forklift
driver Eliaser Erastus was asked by Azhar to remove pallets from the container that housed the 412 kilogrammes of cocaine hidden between copy paper boxes. Erastus testified that on 15 June 2018, he was instructed by his foreman to help Azhar off-load two pallets from a container.

 He then followed Azhar to the Walvis Bay port and into a container, where he off-loaded pallets from a container Azhar directed him to.

At this point, Namandje objected to the evidence, saying the container is part of the evidence he objected to in the plea explanation. Kanyemba countered that
the evidence of the witness in no way encroached into the ambit of the objection, adding that the objection is about the search and seizure warrant which had nothing to do with the testimony of the witness. 

Namandje strenously argued that the issue surrounding the container is subject to an objection which the court has to decide on, and whatever evidence involved either the container or its contents has to be decided in a trial within a trial. According to him, Azhar was instructed by the police officers at the scene to find someone with a forklift. 

Windhoek High Court judge Orben Sibeya, who is presiding over the trial, ordered after several to-and-fros between Namandje and Kanyemba that the evidence is permissible as it was Azhar who instructed Erastus to off-load the containers, and the fact that he was instructed by police officers is neither here nor there, and can be addressed during cross-examination.

The judge further said Erastus was an extension of Azhar. Erastus testified that he off-loaded eight pallets, and not the two he was initially instructed to off-load.

During cross-examination, Namandje concentrated on asking the witness about the police officers present at the scene then. Erastus confirmed the presence of officers, but said he did not know who they were, or what they were doing there.

Noble and Azhar are accused of dealing in, alternatively possession of 412 kilogrammes of cocaine. They also face a count of money-laundering.

They have been in police custody since 15 June 2018 following their arrest after a container they imported was found loaded with cocaine, worth an estimated N$206 million.  The cocaine was hidden between copy paper boxes the two ordered from Brazil via Cape Town to Namibia through the port of Walvis Bay.   According to the indictment, Noble and Azhar personally approached the port authorities to claim possession of the container and its contents.

It is further stated that the container was still closed and sealed, and using a forcible entry tool, Noble broke the seal, and the container was opened. Upon searching, it was found to contain 480 boxes of A4 printing paper, and amongst the boxes of paper, 400 blocks of cocaine were found weighing 401.52 kg with a value of N$206 million, the indictment states. A new seal with the same number was found in one of the boxes. Noble and Azhar were arrested on the scene and the cocaine – a dangerous dependence-producing drug - was seized, analysed and found to contain 87% cocaine.

The trial will continue on 12 July.

2021-06-14  Roland Routh

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