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100 Grammes of seized suspected narcotics missing

BY: Mary Mensah
The item circled is the missing whitish substance
The item circled is the missing whitish substance

A white substance weighing 100.1 grammes has gone missing from the substance suspected to be narcotic drugs impounded by security operatives at the Kpoglu Border post in the Ketu South Municipality in the Volta Region last Friday, the Narcotics Control Commission (NACOB) has said.

It said the substance was allegedly detected missing when the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), two days after the seizure, invited all agencies at the border post to verify the exhibits NACOB left in the custody of Customs before they were escorted to the headquarters of the GRA in Accra.

“The verification exercise revealed that Parcel (h), a 100.10g parcel of whitish substance wrapped in transparent polythene suspected to be cocaine, was missing,” the acting Director General of the NACOB, Mr Francis Kofi Torkornoo, told the Daily Graphic.

Recounting the seizure of the suspected narcotics from the perspective of the commission, he insisted that NACOB was the lead agency on narcotic drugs in the country, as the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019), which was assented to by the President on May 11, this year, gave the commission independence in the performance of its functions over offences related to narcotic drugs, plants cultivated for narcotic purposes and for related matters.

“Based on that, Section 72 of Act 1019 also talks about seizure of currency and NACOB has the backing of the law to ask Customs to transfer the vehicle and all its contents to us for investigations to start in earnest, but since the seizure of the whitish substances suspected to be narcotics at the Kpoglu Border on Friday, June 5, 2020, we are yet to receive all the exhibits from the scene,” he said.

Busting

Mr Torkornoo explained that the NACOB officer on the ground acted on intelligence and vigilance to personally bust the suspect, after he had insisted that a second false fuel tank be scanned to ascertain its contents.

He said the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, with Nigerian registration number LSR 815 FV, arrived at the Kpoglu Border Post on Friday, June 5, loaded with goods, which the driver, Agbatch Sylvester, declared as assorted goods.

Mr Torkornoo said as part of arrival formalities, officials of NACOB, Customs, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) conducted a joint examination of the vehicle.


He explained that the joint examination revealed that the items included spare parts, garments, drinks, gallons of flavours, footwear and a hand bag and wanted to release the vehicle.

“However, the NACOB officer, based on intelligence available to him on the vehicle and the driver, as well as his critical examination, made an official request to have the vehicle scanned at the Gateway Services Limited (GSL),” he said.

He added that on two occasions, the scan result was reported as normal, but the officer insisted that further physical examination be conducted on the vehicle.

Mr Torkornoo said the vehicle was, therefore, returned to the examination bay and the NACOB officer recalled the other agencies to witness the examination.

The assistance of a mechanic was sought to remove the false tank, and in the process of doing that, the driver jumped into the vehicle and sped off, forcing the NACOB officer to jump onto his motorbike to chase the vehicle, he said.

“Having given Sylvester a hot chase for about 45 minutes, the NACOB officer, at the peril of his life, bravely crashed his Fourtrax motorbike into the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, compelling the driver to stop the vehicle,” Mr Torkornoo recounted.

Sensing danger, he added, the suspect took to his heels and abandoned the vehicle, with the scene attracting many bystanders, but the NACOB officer stayed put by the vehicle and called his commander at the Aflao Border Post for reinforcement.

Before the team could arrive, three officers of Customs at the Kpoglu Border had gone to the scene and the vehicle was transported to that post and later taken to Aflao for further examination.

The director general said the agencies, that time including the Police, Immigration, Defence, Military Intelligence and National Security, converged to examine the false fuel tank, which revealed the substances.

Bring the rest

Mr Torkornoo said although the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) required that the vehicle and all the items retrieved be transferred to NACOB, “as of date, Customs has failed to hand over the exhibits to NACOB for further investigations”.

He said last Monday, an escort team of Customs and Immigration officers transported the vehicle and the seized items to the Customs Headquarters and also held a press conference on the seizure.

That same day, he explained, some Customs and Immigration officials went to hand over a box, reportedly containing the narcotic exhibits, but NACOB declined to receive them, on grounds that all contents and the vehicle were to be returned, as per the NACOB Law.

Not first time

He expressed grave concern over the handling of the seized substances by Customs, which he said had delayed his outfit from launching full investigations into the issue.

He said it was not the first time Customs had delayed in sending exhibits to NACOB to start investigations into substances seized at the same border, saying that in all instances, it was the vigilance of a NACOB official that had led to the seizure of the drugs.

Customs’ posture

“NACOB is saying that this practice of Customs holding on to exhibits suspected to be narcotics and handing them over to NACOB later is very worrying, frustrating and disturbing, adding that the commission had exhibited its readiness to collaborate with other relevant agencies in its work.

He also described as most unfortunate the statement made by the Commissioner of the Customs Division of the GRA, Colonel Kwadwo Damoah (retd), that although the substances were yet to be verified, “I can say they are of the high-value narcotic category”.

Mr Torkornoo indicated that no test had been conducted on the seized whitish substances at the Kpoglu Border Post to confirm the type of drug, stressing that nobody could determine a narcotic drug by merely looking at it.