THE Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal against the conviction of two Angolan citizens who were caught transporting a record quantity of cocaine through Namibia in December 2007.
The evidence as a whole that the prosecution presented against Daniel João Paulo and Josué Manuel Antonio during their trial in the High Court in Windhoek established their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, Judge of Appeal Sylvester Mainga stated in the Supreme Court’s judgement, which was handed down on Friday.
The versions which Paulo and Antonio placed before the court in an attempt to convince it that they were not guilty of dealing in cocaine was improbable, not possibly true on the proven facts, and had to be rejected as false, the judge added.
“The appellants were correctly convicted,” he said about the verdict in which Judge Collins Parker found Paulo and Antonio guilty of dealing in dangerous dependence producing drugs in January last year.
Having already spent more than three years in custody, the men were sentenced to an additional effective six years’ imprisonment in March last year.
Paulo and Antonio were arrested after a load of cocaine was found in a hidden compartment under their car when their vehicle was searched at a police roadblock near Keetmanshoop on December 20 2007.
About 30,1 kilograms of cocaine, valued at about N$15,5 million, was found in the hidden compartment. That was the biggest single quantity of cocaine to have been confiscated by the Namibian Police to date.
An additional 9,25 kg of cocaine,valued at N$4,6 million, was found hidden in the spare wheel of the car at the end of September 2008.
Paulo and Antonio were found not guilty on a charge relating to the cocaine found in the spare wheel after the prosecution had closed its case against them, after Judge Collins Parker concluded that when that cocaine was discovered the vehicle was not in the two men’s possession any more.
Judge Mainga remarked in the appeal judgement that he had some difficulty in understanding why the two men were acquitted on that charge at that stage of their trial.
The men’s car had been kept under lock and key at the Keetmanshoop Police Station before the cocaine was found in the spare wheel, and there was no evidence that the drugs could have been planted on the vehicle, he noted.
In the absence of an appeal from the prosecution against the men’s discharge on that count, the Supreme Court did not deal further with that ruling of the trial judge.
Paulo and Antonio claimed that the owner of the vehicle had asked them to drive the car from Angola to South Africa, where he wanted to use it while on holiday. They also claimed that they did not know about the cocaine hidden under the car.
The police officer who found the cocaine at the roadblock however told the court that he picked up the distinctive smell of cocaine even before he started to search through the car, Judge Mainga noted.
The court also heard that adhesive tape similar to the tape with which the parcels of cocaine under the car had been wrapped was found in the vehicle. Also found in the vehicle was a pop rivet gun – the hidden compartment was also attached to the car with pop rivets – and deodorant spray and perfumed auto silicon.
The evidence about the strong smell of the cocaine and the presence of material in the car with which efforts could be made to hide that smell belied the two men’s claims of having not known about the presence of the cocaine, Judge Mainga stated.
“(T)heir denials that they could not smell the cocaine which was so overwhelming to the witnesses who came into contact with it, must be rejected as false beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.
Chief Justice Peter Shivute and Judge of Appeal Gerhard Maritz agreed with the judgement.