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State ditches search warrant in cocaine case

2021-08-17  Roland Routh

State ditches search warrant in cocaine case
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The prosecution will no longer rely on a disputed search and seizure warrant to prove their case against two men implicated in a cocaine bust case worth N$206 million. 

A State prosecutor told Windhoek High Court Judge Orben Sibeya about this yesterday.

Walvis Bay residents Grant Noble (36) and Dinath Azhar (62) are the main accused in the matter. 

The concession by prosecutor Timo Itula came after defence lawyer Sisa Namandje again warned about evidence containing the container in which 412 kilogrammes of cocaine was found hidden between photocopier papers. 

Itula was about to lead evidence from Jesaja Shangula, a customs officer who was present when the container was opened. Namandje objected to the testimony and Itula then burst the bomb that they are no longer relying on the search and seizure warrant but will instead rely on certain sections of the Customs and Excise Act to prove their case. 

Namandje also objected to such evidence, claiming none of the sections the State relies on finds application regarding the opening, search and seizure of containers in the harbour. Itula on the other hand argued the sections indeed find application as they were designed to stop prohibited goods from entering the country through the harbour. After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge allowed the evidence to be presented. According to Shangula, he received a call from an unknown person that a shipment from Santos in Brazil is suspect. 

He proceeded to inform his counterpart at the risk assessment unit of customs.  After a risk assessment was done, it was decided to put an embargo on the consignment in order to examine it when it arrives at the port. As such, he said, the owners of the container were contacted and informed about the examination of the consignment and a date and time was agreed upon. 

On 15 June 2018, he and three colleagues went to the container where they found Noble and Azhar as well as several police officers. He further said his colleague from the risk assessment unit asked Noble to verify the seal on the container and thereafter to remove the seal. 

He further said Noble then broke the seal with a bolt cutter and opened the container himself. The labourers who were brought by Noble then started to off-load the boxes one by one, but as this was time consuming, they requested Azhar to organise a forklift which he did and the pallets were then removed, he narrated. 

During the off-loading, Shangula said, he noticed that one of the pallets was different from the rest. According to him, the boxes on the other pallets were wrapped with plastic and secured while the boxes on the suspect pallet were loose and open. He then requested the police to bring a dog to sniff one of the boxes and the dog stood at the box and barked. Upon inspection of the box, they found it was packed with smaller parcels “like that of a lady’s handbag” and he then requested one of the officers to inspect the parcel and when the officer cut into the parcel, a white powder was observed. 

The witness further narrated he then asked the police to help them identify the powder. Thereafter, he was informed that it was cocaine powder. Upon counting the parcels, he said, they found 200 of them in the boxes. 

He further said the lading bill only mentioned 480 boxes of copy paper, which were the ones wrapped with plastic. Shangula further told the court that they also found 12 bags on top of the suspect pallet with an identical seal as the one they broke to open the container. 

Noble and Azhar are accused of dealing in, alternatively possession of 412 kilogrammes of cocaine worth an estimated N$206 million as well as a count of money laundering. They remain in custody and the trial will continue today. Itula took over from Salomon Kanyemba who went into private practice.

-rrouth@nepc.com.na

Defensive… Grant Noble and Dinath Azhar

Photo: Emmency Nuukala

 

 


2021-08-17  Roland Routh

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