BNI’s interim report on cocaine-turned baking soda

The following is the full text summary of the Interim Report of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) on the swapping of cocaine that turned into sodium bicarbonate (baking powder) as released in Accra by the Ministry of Information on Wednesday.

The report was submitted to President John Evans Atta Mills last week.

The President had asked the BNI to investigate the case in which the cocaine turned into baking powder when it was retested at the Ghana Standards Authority during the trial of the accused person, Nana Ama Martins, at an Accra Circuit Court.

The report of a fact-finding committee set up by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, was released to the public on Tuesday.


                                                                                                              SUMMARY FOR RELEASE

Approximately one [1] kilogramme [1,020 kg] of cocaine presented as exhibit in The Republic Vs Nana Ama MARTIN Sturned out to be sodium bicarbonate upon retesting by the Ghana Standards Authority. The substance had earlier undergone a field test at the Police Headquarters and a more elaborate test at the Police Crime Laboratory in 2008. Both tests had reported the substance as positive for cocaine. The Bureau was directed to investigate the circumstances leading to the change of the substance and identify the culprits.

2.  Nana Ama MARTINS was arrested on 22nd August, 2008 in ACCRA with a substance suspected to be cocaine. The case, however, was never brought to trial until MARTINSwas granted bail [against the relevant laws] on 11th September, 2009. She absconded to be rearrested on 21st July, 2011 after which the case was reactivated for the trial to begin on 25th August, 2011 at the Circuit Court One, Cocoa Affairs Courts, presided over by Justice Eric Kyei BAFFUOR.

3.     The investigation established strong circumstantial evidence that the cocaine was swapped with the active assistance of, and facilitation by, DSP Mrs Gifty Mawunyegah TEHODA, the Deputy Head of the Commercial Crimes Unit, Criminal Investigations Department [CID] Headquarters who had nothing to do with the investigation under review, but took the suspect out of cells on nine [9]occasions under the ruse of “further investigations” and spent, on the average, two [2] hours with her in her office on each occasion.

4.     The exhibit which was at all times kept in the office of the Head of the Narcotics Unit of the Police Service and not in a designated exhibit room was handled by three [3] heads of the Police Narcotics Unit and two [2] investigators from 22nd August, 2008 to 27th September, 2011 (a period of three years) when it was first tendered in evidence.

5.  L/Cpl ANYEKASE visually identified and confirmed the exhibit on 28th September, 2011 as the same one he tendered on 27thSeptember 2011, suggesting that it had not changed overnight. It is noted that ANYEKASE is a policeman, not a court official.

6. Long before the substance was tendered in court, Kwabla SENANU, the defence counsel, had insisted to the prosecutor, Stella ARHIN, that the exhibit was not cocaine. The exhibit stayed in the court premises from 27th to 29th September when it was sent for re-testing after which it returned negative for cocaine. Any change in the substance at the Court would have happened over the two nights. The investigation found no evidence of any visible change in the substance over those two days and nights as testified to by L/Cpl Thomas ANYEKASE, Constable Joseph OWUSU, and the prosecutor, Stella ARHIN. Both OWUSU and ARHIN endorsed the new sample for re-testing.

7. There was evidence that agents of the accused tried unsuccessfully to influence the court officials with an amount of fifty thousand Ghana cedis [GH¢50,000.00], a clear indication of the extent to which the accused and her cohorts were willing to go to secure her escape from the law.

8.  It is in this connection that the conduct of DSP TEHODA fits into the desperate schemes of the accused to influence the course of justice. Swapping the substance was one sure way of achieving that goal. She held nine [9] meetings without the permission of the investigators and tried to deceive her subordinates in charge of the custody of the accused by indicating in the station diary that she needed her [the accused] for further investigation when she had nothing to do with the matter. Clearly, her motives were not honourable.

9.     Some of the nine [9] meetings she had with the accused in her office were attended by a friend and agent (name withheld) of the accused who confessed having run errands for the accused including making the attempts to bribe the judge and his officials, and an uncle (name withheld) of the accused who, with the agent earlier referred to, was instrumental in selling off property of the accused in GBAWE, in an effort to raise money to pay legal fees and bribe officials connected with the case. Kwabla SENANU, on three [3] occasions, took his legal fees from TEHODA in her office. Clearly then TEHODA’s keen interest in the freedom of MARTINS provides enough motive for her to do whatever she could to achieve that freedom for her.

10. The exhibit itself was kept in the office of the head of the Narcotics Unit. It was released for court by the officer and returned to him. In effect, he was the ultimate custodian of the exhibit. While TEHODA’s conduct was obstructive of the investigation being conducted by her colleagues, the responsibility for the security of the exhibit was that of DSP Kofi ADZEI-TUADZRA.

11.     It is our recommendation that DSP Kofi ADZEI-TUADZRA and DSP Gifty TEHODA be held responsible for their roles in the disappearance of the exhibit which was kept for three [3) years at the Police Headquarters.

Source: GNA

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