Tuesday, December 5

High Court to deliver judgement on Paulo Djabi drug case

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It would be recalled that on 13 September 2023, the accused persons were arraigned before the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on charges of narcotics offences, money laundering and related offences contrary to various sections of the Drug Control Act, 2003 and the Anti-money Laundering and Combating of Terrorist Financing Act, 2012.

The respondents (the accused) took their plea and pleaded not guilty to all the offences charged.  After plea taking, the appellant’s Counsel (the State) applied for the respondents to be remanded in prison custody for want of jurisdiction to hear and determine the money laundering offences.

However, the appellant’s application was opposed by the respondents’ counsel on the basis that the Magistrates’ Courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine the offences of money laundering and consequently applied for bail on behalf of the respondents.

After hearing both submissions of the counsel, the learned Principal Magistrate agreed with the position of the respondents’ counsel and admitted the respondents to bail.

The appellant was dissatisfied with the decisions of the Magistrates’ Court and filed a notice and grounds of appeal and motion seeking for stay of execution of the bail, which was granted as prayed pending the hearing and determination of the appeal.

The High Court ordered that the hearing of the appeal be expedited and records of proceedings settled within 14 days.

On 1st November 2023, the High Court gave some days to the state counsel to file their brief in response to the record of appeal and within which defence counsel were instructed to file their reply within a few days.

Yesterday, Counsel L. Jarjue, who appeared for the state, filed their brief of argument, stating that the subordinate courts lacked jurisdiction to interpret and determine any provision of the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act, 2012, which was one of the offences the accused were charged with.

Counsel L. Jarjue further argued that a higher court could interfere as the learned Magistrate had no jurisdiction and wrongly exercised his discretion judicially and judiciously in the case thus urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the decision of the lower court in its entirety.

Defence lawyer S. Tambadou, filed their brief of appeal arguing that the fact that “the respondents are foreign nationals is not borne out by the record”, adding that “nowhere is it stated in any part of the record that the respondents are foreign nationals”.

He argued that the only reason that the appellant opposed bail in the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court was that the court lacked jurisdiction to try offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorist Financing Act, which was captured in the ruling of the learned Principal Magistrate.

Counsel Tambadou urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the respondents and held that the learned Principal Magistrate was right to grant bail to the accused. He further urged the court to dismiss the appeal.

The presiding Judge, Justice Achibonga, adopted the briefs of both counsel and set 22 November 2023 on judgement on the issue by the lower court.