Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
A 46-YEAR-OLD man holding Nigerian and Ghanaian passports was recently sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Hwange regional court after being found in possession of cocaine with a street value of $126 752 000 upon landing at the Victoria Falls International Airport from Brazil via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Magistrate Mr Collet Ncube, the then Hwange Regional magistrate, sentenced Desmond Onyi Onuoha on December 23 after he was arrested at the Victoria Falls International Airport on October 23 by security agents who had received a tip off that he was suspected to be in possession of cocaine as he was traveling from the South American country of Brazil. Mr Ncube is now based in Bulawayo as the senior regional magistrate.
Upon landing at the Victoria Falls International Airport and after he had finished the check-in proceedings, the police took him for questioning which led to a thorough search resulting in the recovery of a white gel substance that was wrapped in cello-tape stashed in the linings of hats and jackets.
“The substance tested positive for cocaine leading to the arrest of the accused person. The cocaine weighed 2,330 kg with a street value of $126 752 00,” read a statement by the National Prosecuting Authority which was posted on their official Twitter handle.
The arrest and prosecution of Onuoha brings to four the number of foreigners that have been arrested at the country’s airports since September last year while trying to smuggle drugs into or outside the country.
Government has attributed the arrests to vigilance and increased surveillance by the country’s security agents.
Vitalis Kudrjasovs (27) who had a Latvian passport, was arrested on September 8 at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare following a tip off.
He was in possession of heroin which he intended to smuggle to India. Security details observed him as he went through check-in, immigration and customs formalities and he was arrested as he was about to board an Ethiopian Airlines flight en route to India.
His luggage was put in a security scanner leading to the discovery of the suspicious package. A further search led to the recovery of heroin with a street value of ZW$ 6,96 million which was concealed in the lining of his bag.
Kudrjasovs has since appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court on charges of dealing in dangerous drugs and was remanded in custody to tomorrow for trial.
On October 1, Shaik Zeenat Khatoon Rafiq (43) of Mumbai in India was arrested by detectives at the Victoria Falls Airport for attempting to smuggle heroin with a street value of US$500 000.
She intended to board an Ethiopian Airline to Addis Ababa en-route to India. Rafiq was found with heroin stuffed in the lining of her travelling bag at the airport’s scanning point.
During the same month, Ronald Florentius Paes (66) was arrested at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport after he was found with heroin with a street value of $5,84 million which he intended to smuggle to India.
The police intercepted Paes after he had gone through all check-in formalities. He was arrested when he was about to have his luggage loaded onto the plane.
The detectives took his bags to the scanners and it was discovered that it contained suspicious contents, which were tested and it was discovered that it was heroin. Paes had boarding passes to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia en route to India on Ethiopian Airlines.
Former Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage permanent secretary Mr Aaron Nhepera said the Government will continue to utilise all machinery and human power at its disposal to fight drug trafficking.
He said it was worrying that the drugs were now finding their way into the local market. – @skhumoyo2000.