Saturday, February 4

118 alleged bags of cocaine, others tendered as exhibits in Banta Keita’s trial  

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During yesterday’s court hearing in Bijilo, the container containing the suspected bags of cocaine was opened. The director of Investigation and International Corporation of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency-The Gambia (DLEAG), who is also PW6 and the lead investigator of the nearly three tonnes of cocaine – which was seized by the narcotics agency was asked to count the bags of the suspected cocaine.

He thus counted the bags containing the suspected drugs in the present of the state counsel, defence counsels and the judge. After finishing his counting, the bags of the suspected cocaine were confirmed to be 118 bags.

When the case was called, Lamin Jarju announced his representation for the state while defence counsel Badou S. Conteh represented the second accused person Sheriff Njie and Lawyer Tambedou represented the first accused person Banta Keita.

Continuing his testimony yesterday, Lamin Gassama, who is also PW 6 informed the court that the suspected cocaine were kept in a container marked “Sudu 753175 and labelled Hamburg Sud” which was in the middle of the containers that were within the court grounds.

Asked by the State Counsel whether he could recognise the container containing the suspected cocaine, Gassama added: “The container containing the alleged cocaine was a red one. However, it is important to indicate that this was a consignment of four containers. But the container which contained the drugs is distinguished in colour from the other three containers. The other remaining containers which contain industrial salt are all here. In fact, they are used to secure the container containing the alleged cocaine,” he said, while further adducing that the three other containers containing the industrial salt were used as a cover-up.

He further told the court that all the other containers were under their custody. “We used those containers to block and secure the container containing the drugs. We want to ensure that the drugs are kept in the container where they are from and that they are safe.”

Further asked by the State Counsel whether he would be able to recognise the drugs if they are shown to him, Gassama replied in the positive, saying: “Yes I would be able to recognise the drugs because they are in 25 kg bags of which the colour of the bags are of white.”

At this juncture, State Counsel Jarju sought the court’s permission to tender the drugs together with the container containing the drugs after it has been identified and opened in presence of the defences and the court.

However, defence counsel Tambadou objected to the application, claiming that the application to tender the said drugs together with the container was “premature”.

State Counsel Jarju later withdrew his application. He then applied for the container to be opened, which was granted by the court.

A welder was then invited to first cut the iron bar using his graining machine and later the six padlocks that were used to lock the container containing the suspected cocaine were also cut.

The DLEAG director of Intelligence and International Corporation further told the court that the iron bar didn’t come with the container containing the drugs. However, it was the DLEAG that put it there as an additional security for the protection of the drugs.

“When the container containing the suspected drugs was unlocked, each of the four keys was given to a senior officer of the DLEAG for safekeeping. One of the keys was given to Demba S. Jammeh, the director of Forensic Investigation. Another key was given to Neneh Jallow, the commissioner of Weight and Exhibits, while the key to the padlock was given to the then director of Operations Alhagie Ebrima Drammeh. The last key was given to Alhagie Tijan Bah, the then deputy director general of the DLEAG.”

“However, due to change in circumstances at the DLEAG, the key that was given to the then director of Operations was to be given to the DLEAG director of administration, Sheriff Sanyang. But during the handing over ceremony, the key got misplaced,” he posited

When the padlocks to the container were opened, the director of Investigation and International Corporation was then asked to count the bags of the suspected cocaine. He thus counted the bags containing the suspected drugs in the present of the state counsel, defence counsels and the judge. After finishing his counting, the bags of the suspected cocaine were confirmed to be 118 bags.

He further claimed that during the course of their investigation, the bags reported to be containing the cocaine were marked as B1 to B118.

At this juncture, State Counsel Jarju applied to tender the 118 bags containing drugs together with the container identified by the witness as exhibits. The defence counsels didn’t object to the application, hence the 118 bags reported to be contained were admitted as exhibits and marked: F I to F 118 and the container where the drug was kept was also marked as Exhibit G.

Lamin Gassama further told the court that during their investigation, they had also seized two vehicles, adding that the vehicles were within the premises where the court was sitting. One of the vehicles, he added, was a range rover with Lassana Conteh registered on the number plate, which he said is also Banta Keita’s.

The range rover was later admitted and tendered as Exhibit H after no objection from the defence counsels.

Continuing his testimony, Gassama further stated that they had also seized a white speed-boat called Ibiza together with a carrier.

He added that no document was found when they seized the speed-boat. However, a mechanic from whom the speed-boat was recovered told them that the boat was owned by Banta Keita and it was at his garage for maintenance.

After no objection from the defence, the speed-boat together with the carrier were tendered and admitted as exhibits (i) and i (1) respectively.

Director Gassama further told the court that they had also seized a VW vehicle with the registration number BJL 2756. The insurance of the vehicle, he said, carries the name of Sheriff Njie – the second accused person. He claimed that Sheriff Njie told them that his name was only on the insurance but the vehicle belongs to Banta Keita. After no objection from the defence, the said vehicle was also tendered and admitted as Exhibit J.

Pursuant to Section 51 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Act, Counsel Sanneh told the court that vehicles that were seized by the narcotics agency are deteriorating, and he thus applied for the vehicle to be disposed with proceeds to be kept at the bank pending the determination of the case.

The value of the vehicles, Sanneh added, is going down. It is important for the vehicles to be disposed in order to have a worthy prize. He urged the court to grant his application.

At this juncture, defence counsel Tambadou told the court that they intend to reply on the application made by the defence counsel today.

The matter was then adjourned to today for continuation of PW6 and cross examination of the witness by the defence team.

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