The packed courtroom of Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice was a scene of disbelief and shock when government lawyers failed to give account of 1.2 kilogram of heroin valued at US$30,000, allegedly arrested from a 24-year-old Ugandan woman, Shirat Nelwadda.
Prosecution had indicted her with multiple crimes including unlawful possession, trafficking, and distribution of a narcotic drug.
She, however, denied all of the charges read to her in open court by the clerk of court.
At the hearing on Tuesday, March 25, while the Court remained seated and silent, Judge Blamo Dixon asked the government lawyers where the heroin, the fruit of the crime (foc) could be found, as it was not in Court where it belonged. The Prosecution responded: “The heroin is with the court and we will soon bring it.”
That statement elicited this reaction from Judge Dixon: “Tell the people that the drugs are not with this Court.”
State prosecutor and judge did not name the court in possession of the 1.2 kilogram of narcotic drugs.
Legal experts, however, suggested to the Daily Observer that the drugs were at the Monrovia City Court, which had heard the matter before the defendant had been indicted by the Montserrado County Grand Jury.
Before Judge Dixon's request for the fruit of the crime, prosecution had earlier presented pieces of evidence to the court, leaving behind the 1.2 kilogram of heroin, which was at the center of the trial.
The prosecution's first witness, Special Agent Albert Hare of the Drug Enforcement Agency, (DEA) was also on the stand testifying in the matter.
Hare is believed to be the DEA officer who investigated defendant Nelwadda when she was charged.
Testifying under cross examination, when asked who had arrested Defendant Nelwadda, Hare responded, “It was officers of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Roberts International Airport’s (RIA) security assigned at the Airport that did the arrest. We were not at the RIA when she was arrested and it is not the DEA that carried out the arrest. It was done by joint security assigned at the Airport including the NSA and RIA. We only came into the picture when she was turned over to us by the NSA. You know we are an agency of government, responsible to investigate drug-related cases. That was why they placed her in our custody,” Hare explained about his agency's involvement.
"That means you never arrested the defendant?" Judge Dixon asked. Hare replied: “Yes, we did not arrest the suspect.”
Asked whether the defendant was investigated by the NSA, Hare again responded: “No, NSA did not conduct any investigation.”
Also, testifying on the direct, Agent Hare alleged Nelwadda was charged following a preliminary investigation and a laboratory test done on the drugs, by the DEA.
Surprisingly, when he was asked by defense counsel whether Nelwadda had a lawyer when she was investigated according to the law, Hare replied: “We accorded the defendant all of her legal rights under the law, including her right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent else any statement made would be used against her in a Court of competent jurisdiction. She agreed, and that was how we went ahead with the investigation.”
The case continues.
However, details of the document that brought Nelwadda under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court — a copy of which is in the possession of this paper— said, on November 30, 2013 she was arrested with 1.2 kilogram of heroin valued at US$30,000 by joint security assigned at the RIA.
The document further quoted police as saying: “the drugs were in a black suitcase that she was traveling with.”
It continued: “During the investigation, the defendant said she was traveling to Liberia for the first time to meet a “boyfriend” called Ekina, whom she does not know. She had also been told she would be met by Nalutarya Laila, her girlfriend in Zama, Kampala, the capital of Uganda.”
The document further alleged that “upon her arrival at RIA and subsequent arrest with the drugs, defendant Nelwadda could neither give the contact address or telephone number of the so-called boyfriend she claimed is the owner of the drugs she was carrying.”