Pubdate: Mon, 03 Apr 2006
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2006 Nation Newspapers
Author: Mugumo Munene
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Judicial history was made when a court held a session that lasted
fifteen straight hours to oversee the cocaine haul destruction at the
Kenya Medical Research Institute of the largest drug haul ever seized
in Africa.

The destruction was certified complete by Nairobi Chief magistrate
Aggrey Muchelule on Friday at 11.30pm.

It was a scientific process done through incinerators that reduced the
drug to harmless smoke and impotent ash.

Mr Muchelule was accompanied by police chief, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, his
principal deputy Lawrence Mwadime, CID director Joseph Kamau and the
GSU commandant Mathew Iteere.

And it was a special day for the six suspects charged with trafficking
the haul; they not only countersigned the certification documents
alongside the trial magistrate, but were served sumptuous meals doled
out of the same cooking pot from which the dignitaries were fed.

Also Signing

Also signing the destruction certificate was Maj-Gen Ali, director of
public prosecution Keriako Tobiko, senior State counsel Oriri Onyango,
Law Society of Kenya representative Evans Monari, director of medical
services James Nyikal and chief government chemist Jane Okado.

Mrs Okado had been appointed by the AG's office to head the team of
local and foreign scientists called in by the State to verify the
cocaine haul.

One of the defence counsels, Dr John Khaminwa, who has practised law
for more than forty years, said in his address to the court; "Your
honour, the only time the courts sat well into the night, sometimes
past midnight, was when freedom fighters were tried by the
colonialists. But tonight, we are here promoting the rule of law."

Even through in ordinary circumstances, journalists are not allowed to
film court proceedings, the rule was waived and those present allowed
to record the historic midnight proceedings.


In his address to the court, Mr Onyango who is prosecuting the case
said: "The drug has been the subject matter of rumour and speculation,
and we are glad that the verification exercise has found it to be pure
cocaine. This has given a vote of confidence to the police and the

And following the successful destruction of the haul, Kabete MP Paul
Muite demanded that the American and British governments apologise to
Kenyans for insinuating that the drug had got its way to some European

Mr Muite said: "Statements were issued by the American embassy here in
Nairobi and by the British High Commission, saying they believed the
cocaine or part of it had been sold and replaced with flour."

The Safina party leader said the two governments relied on information
peddled by former director of public prosecutions Philip Murgor, and
which they accepted as gospel truth because of his public position.

But Mr Murgor defended his position in an interview with the Nation in
his office yesterday, and said: "At no time did I say that the cocaine
had been substituted. All I have said is that the police have always
acted in a manner that would create a window of opportunity for mischief.

"The defiance I was getting from the police and the CID led to the
fear that the consignment had been tampered with or would be tampered
with. That was evident throughout the time I was the DPP. I was also
getting resistance introducing the UN Organisation for Drug Control
(UNODC) experts to the police."

Mr Murgor added that he had information suggesting that the police
could have let other consignments of cocaine slip through and possibly
allowed the foreign suspects to escape. He did not provide proof of
the claims.

But he further claimed that there existed a triangular cartel running
a drug business between South America, Kenya and the Netherlands, and
suggested that Kenyan police incorporate the US FBI, British drug
control authorities and UNODC to unearth it.

On his part, the Kabete MP said since the verification had been done
by experts from the US, UK and the UN, and the drug destroyed in their
presence, they owed Kenya an apology.

He said diplomats from the two countries had even implied that the
street value of the cocaine had gone down because of infusion of the
seized cocaine into the market.

Mr Muite accused them of claiming the staff of the national carrier -
Kenya Airways - were transporting the drug.

British High Commissioner Adam Wood recently said that many of the KQ
staff had been seized in London with cocaine.

He said this after meeting Attorney General Amos Wako in the company
of US ambassador William Bellamy. The two had gone to ask Mr Wako to
speed up the destruction of the cocaine.

The Sh6.4 billion seizure was burnt, still wrapped in plastic bags at
1,200 degrees Celsius. Ordinarily, cocaine melts at about 90 degrees
Celsius and boils at 187 degrees Celsius, and the high temperatures
employed were meant to ensure that the substance was irreversibly destroyed.

All that was left at the end was 55 kilogrammes of cold, impotent ash
for burial in a designated pit at the Kenya Medical Research Institute
in Nairobi.

Officers drawn from the crack General Service Unit maintained tight
security throughout the exercise. Only those with invitation badges
were allowed near the two incinerators where the drug was burnt.

At 10.14am, Maj-Gen Ali Dr Nyikal pushed the buttons turning on the
heat that would ultimately destroy the cocaine.

Mr Tobiko told journalists that the destruction of the cocaine haul
was delayed because of the required court process.

"We also had to apply the highest standards acceptable worldwide, and
that is what you are witnessing here," he added.

He explained that journalists had been kept out of the week-long
verification process because "even in hospital, you are not allowed to
go into the theatre, because you would only interfere with what the
doctors are doing. We felt that journalists would have slowed down the
experts. This is not a soap opera."

Also expressing his delight at the destruction was the UN Office on
Drugs and Crime Eastern Africa regional director Carsten Hyttel.

Maj-Gen Ali said: "The haul is intact as I promised, I'm glad the
experts have verified that. That is the position we have maintained
for the last 16 months. It vindicates the police against accusations
to the contrary, and I commend the investigators for a job well done."

And the commissioner warned: "Whoever lost this Sh6.4 billion worth of
cocaine cannot come back here, and if he does, we will still be
vigilant and nab them. This particular haul was destined for London."

The destroyed haul was of high purity, and could have been mixed with
glucose and diluted three times over before being sold in the market.

It means that its street value could have been tripled from Sh6.4
billion to nearly Sh20 billion.

A foreign experts who declined to be named said: "We have found it to
be pure cocaine, and normally, they don't sell it in the streets like
this. It is normally diluted with glucose."

A senior police officer involved with the case said that the cocaine
captured in Europe did not come from the haul destroyed yesterday.

"What we have here is what was captured. There could have been more
that was destined for Europe through different routes. This was from a
speedboat and a container," he said.

"It is not easy to deal with drug dealers because they are rich
people. They can have a ship in the high seas full of drugs, but they
always have speedboats. If they get in trouble and know that they will
be captured, they will normally blow up the ship and take off in
speedboats. Even if you caught them, the drugs will have been
destroyed. There is a lot of that business going on in the high seas
and international waters," he added. 
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MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPF Florida)