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Seven foreigners found guilty of trafficking heroin worth Sh1.3 billion

 Bags of heroin seized after draining Amin Darya ship's diesel chambers in 2014. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

A Mombasa court on Friday found seven foreign nationals guilty of trafficking heroin worth over Sh1.3 billion to Kenya.

Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku said that the six Pakistanis and one Iranian national who were hired as crew members aboard Armin Darya failed to exonerate themselves and reveal the owner of the said drugs.

Yousuf Yaqoob, Mohamed Saleh, Yakoob Ibrahim, Saleem Muhammad, Bhatti Abdul Ghafour, Baksh Moula and Pak Abdolghaffer were found guilty of trafficking 377.2 kilograms of heroin valued at Sh1,131,672,000 in granule form.

They are also facing a charge of trafficking 33,200 litres of heroin worth Sh189 million.

“Investigators have produced enough evidence to convict the accused crew members. I find the accused guilty of the charges and convict them under section 215 of the CPC,” said Mutuku.

The foreigners have been in Shimo La Tewa prisons since 2014 and are set for sentencing after they mitigate on February 22.

The said vessel was intercepted in international waters of the Indian Ocean by American operatives in 2014 and later blown up at sea under the supervision of President Uhuru Kenyatta despite existing High Court order to preserve the same as court exhibit.

The Magistrate said the crew were privy of the narcotics aboard the ship christened Al-Noor but failed to tell the court who had sent them. The crew had told the court they were transporting white cement (gypsum) from iran to Zanzibar.

  A section of Armin Darya crew. They failed to exonerate themselves and reveal the owner of the heroin. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The seafarers had challenged the jurisdiction of Kenyan courts to try them because they were arrested on the high seas between the Kenya-Somali waters.

Mutuku said the fact that the vessel’s GPS was off proved that the crew were up to something as they didn’t want to be located.

“I find the crew member culpable. They can’t say they didn't know of the said narcotics. The vessel’s GPS was off and the drugs were well concealed and they didn't exonerate themselves by telling the court the ship’s owned and who sent them,” said Mutuku.

However, the court proceeded to acquit three Kenyan shipping agents - Khalid Mohamed, Mohamed Osman, and Maur Bwanamaka for lack of sufficient evidence to prove that the Kenyans  were in anyway involved with the shipping agencies or were aboard the said vessel.

She said that despite arresting Khalid over firearms possession, the same was not produced in court by arresting officer Corporal Samuel Gari or produced as evidence.

“Corporal Samuel Gari arrested Khalid over possession of firearms and no firearms or further evidence were produced produced in court. The prosecution didn't draw any conclusion over the vessel, drugs and firearms,” said Mutuku.

According to the crew members' evidence, they were all contracted to transport cement to Zanzinar and not destined to Mombasa.

Mr. Yousouf Yacoub, the assistant captain told the court that the owner of the vessel was Ibrahim Haji and that they were contracted for three months and were to be paid after delivering the whilte cement.

He said he knew nothing about the drugs but remembered police recovering something from the diesel tank.

 Navy officers gurading Armin Darya. The ship was later blown up at sea under the supervision of former President Uhuru Kenyatta. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

While acquitting the Kenyans, Mutuku said Khalid only came to know about the drugs after he was called and investigated by Inspector Hamisi Masa.

“The court has analysed the matter and finds that the prosecution has proved all the accused apart from the Kenyans were crews on the ship. From the evidence the three were Kenyans were agents at the port of Mombasa and there were drugs found on the ship,” said Mutuku.

She said prosecution witnesses said the drugs were concealed in ballast and diesel tanks and took several days to find them, a fact she noted was supported by some of the convicted crew members who said they saw police recover something from the ballast tank.

“I see no reason why the drugs would have been planted yet the ship was not known to the. Kenyan security agencies.The prosecution has demonstrated how the drugs were ceased handled and produced and proper documentation of the photos reproduced in the court. 

She said Bwanamaka seemed to have been working with security agents during investigations.

The Magistrate said the court was never provided with congent evidence why police decided to charge the Kenyan agents.

“The only connection was the phone call. They were never directly connected to the ship. I acquit Mohamed, Osman and Bwanamala over insufficient evidence,” said Mutuku.

She however said Kenya has jurisdiction of the court to try foreigners and ruled that destruction of the ship against existing court orders doesn't affect the evidence as produced in court.

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