The Editor of the Finder Newspaper, Elvis Darko, has rubbished claims discounting the discovery of cocaine at the Tema Port that reportedly went missing.
The Sector Commander of the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), at the Tema Port, Confidence Nyadzi, had earlier dismissed claims that 500 kilogrammes of cocaine worth about $30 million dollars, had disappeared from the Port.
This was after the Finder reported that 10 bags of cocaine, hidden in a consignment of rice with an estimated street value of about $30million, had vanished from the Port under mysterious circumstances.
But speaking on Eyewitness News, Mr. Darko, stood by his claims, insisting CEPS’ call for investigations into the development seems to suggest that, some containers at the Port contained cocaine.
“For the Customs Man to say ‘nothing has happened’ and to say in the next moment that ‘they are conducting investigations’ is questionable. If the customs officer’s interview in one breadth said ‘we have done investigations into the matter’, and in another breadth says that ‘nothing has happened’, that is worrying.”
“You cannot say you have done investigations into an issue, and other institutions have done investigations and the next breadth you say nothing of that sort has happened so I am saying that if there are lapses, let’s look at where the lapses happened.”
He believes CEPs, is denying claims that cocaine was discovered at the Port because “it is unwilling to admit that the cocaine went missing under their watch.”
According to the Finder newspaper, a ship carrying some containers with cocaine onboard arrived at the Tema Port in December 2016, but the suspected cocaine vanished before February 23, 2017, when all stakeholders conducted compulsory tests on the container.
The report stated that K9 Dogs, which are specially trained to detect cocaine, confirmed traces of cocaine in the said container, while UK’s Operation West Bridge also conducted sampling by the use of itemizers which also confirmed traces of cocaine.
The newspaper, also said separate investigations it conducted on the suspected missing cocaine by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and Customs, have been submitted to the Interior Minister and the Attorney General’s offices.
The newspaper reported that its investigations have revealed that Ghana’s image in the comity of nations has once again been· heavily dented as the country failed another major test in the fight against drugs.
It said, 10 bags of suspected cocaine, each weighing 50kgs (500kgs in all) hidden in a consignment of rice with an estimated street value of about $30million has vanished from the Tema Port under mysterious circumstances.
Surprisingly officers under whose watch this happened are still at post at the Tema Port.
According to our sources, a ship carrying some containers with cocaine onboard arrived in Tema Pot in December 2016 but the suspected cocaine vanished before February 23, 2017, when all stakeholders conducted compulsory tests on the container.
It is learnt that K9 Dogs which are specially trained to detect cocaine confirmed traces of cocaine in the said container while UK’s Operation West Bridge also conducted sampling by the use of itemizers which also confirmed traced of cocaine.
The Finder further learnt that separate investigations conducted on the suspected missing cocaine by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) and Customs have been submitted to the Interior Minister and the Attorney General’s offices.
The Investigations indicated that when the ship arrived, the identification of containers selected for sampling were FSCU-7559200, IRNU-2610834, CCLU-3224764, TRHU-1653800 and TRLU-8778855.
All these were 20-footer containers and each contained 550 bags of white long grain rice according to the bill of lading.
According to the sources, the containers were kept at Depot Surveillance.
On October 24, 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with Suriname authorities alerted the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) of a ship from Suriname in South America carrying the said cocaine in Tema Port in Ghana.
Sources familiar with the matter told the Finder that on the said day, NACOB head office, informed Felicia Wuaku, a Narcotics Analyst who is the head of the Joint Port Control Unit (JPCU) at Tema Port and all stakeholders were informed accordingly.
Sources at NACOB said on December 7, 2016, Felicia Wuaku wrote letters to other stakeholders but Customs received their letters on December 8, 2016.
According to the investigations, for over two months, the importer did not show up to clear the rice. As a result, the Finder learnt that NACOB, in the first week of February, fixed February 25, 2017, to undertake compulsory scanning of the container and inform all stakeholders.
However, NACOB sources said on February 2d, 2017, intelligence indicate that one of the containers with identification number TRHU-1653800 was moved to Golden Jubilee Terminal without the knowledge of NACOB.
Subsequently, NACOB quickly called all stakeholders on February 23, 2017 for compulsory examination of the container which was believed to contain the cocaine.
Agencies present during the opening of the container for testing are: NACOB, K9 Unit (Special Dogs Academy), UK’s Operation Westbridge Officials, Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, National Security, US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
A Joint Port Control Unit was represented by Felicia Wuaku, Francis Worlanyo Kpegah and Henry Asarfo Brain.
When the container was opened, it was realised that 10 bags, each weighing 50kgs were missing from the consignment – in other words, 500kgs suspected to be the pure cocaine had been removed by persons yet to be identified.
However, when sampling was conducted on the rice, K9 Security Dogs and sampling by the use of itemizers of Operation West Bridge team both confirmed traces of pure cocaine.
Questions for JPCU
According to the Finder’s investigations, questions are being asked as to why the head of JPCU, Felicia Wuaku, instead of detailing a surveillance team to keep the containers in sight 24hours, left that duty to GPHA Head of Security while a two-member NACOB Surveillance Team only visited Depot 10 intermittently to ensure that the containers were there.
NACOB sources said their investigations revealed that GPHA and Customs officials moved the container to Golden Jubilee Terminal on request from the importer to have the rice tested without informing NACOB.
However, Confidence Nyadzie, Tema Sector Commander of Customs, described the accusations levelled against Customs as baseless.
When contacted, the UK High Commission on behalf of Operation West Bridge sent this email response: “The UK Government represented by the British High Commission has a long and fruitful relation with Ghanaian law enforcement agencies. We are unable to comment on specific cases.”
On the bill of lading, Joro Farms and Agricultural Processing Limited, located at Kaneshie in Accra is named as the importer of the rice from Caribbean Grain Industry in Suriname.
The Finder contacted the importer, who declined to give his name but denied knowledge of cocaine hidden in his consignment of rice but admitted that NACOB had questioned over the said missing cocaine.
However, sources in the intelligence community told the Finder that the cocaine could be a case of rip off which in drug law enforcement means smart drug lords outsmarting importers and exporters by putting drugs in consignments but removing them before examination in circumstances where the importer or exporter has no knowledge.
The sources also added that it could be a case of a cabal at Tema Port which took advantage of loopholes in security arrangements by JPCU or possibly some JPCU members could have been involved in the smuggling of the cocaine out of the Port.