Namibia: Lawyer Attacks Appointment of Controller in Drug Bust Case

20 October 2021

Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje has attacked the procedures used to appoint or "designate" Jesaja Shangula as the acting controller of customs and excise at the Walvis Bay Port.

Shangula was the officer who conducted the operation that led to the discovery of 412 kilogrammes of cocaine that was found hidden between copy paper boxes.

According to Namandje, the correct procedures were not followed in the designation of Shangula as acting controller, which he says makes his appointment unlawful.

He questioned several State witnesses working at customs and excise about how it came about that Shangula was appointed as acting controller at the port.

Chrissy Hambira, who was the acting commissioner of customs and excise at the time of the incident, testified that according to section three of the Customs and Excise Act the appointment was made by the deputy director of the western region in the directorate.

Despite Namandje pressurising her on the various sections, she remained adamant the appointment was made according to the act that governs the operations of customs.

Similarly did Yolokeni Haihambo, who is the deputy director for the western region.

She also remained steadfast in her testimony that the appointment was made in the spirit of the rules that govern their operations.

She told the court she was acting on behalf of the commissioner in carrying out her duties as prescribed in section three of the act.

According to her, she was within her right to appoint someone in an acting position as long as that position was below hers - and as the head of Customs in the western region, it was her duty to fill a gap that existed at the time.

Namandje is now fighting tooth and nail to have the search of the container declared illegal, as the State abandoned the search warrant and are now relying on customs and excise provisions to prove their case against Grant Noble (36) and Dinath Azhar (62).

Noble and Azhar are accused of dealing in, alternatively possession of 412 kilogrammes of cocaine worth an estimated N$206 million as well as a count of money laundering.

Noble and Azhar have been in police custody since 15 June 2018, following their arrest after a container they imported was found loaded with 412 kilogrammes of cocaine, worth an estimated N$206 million.

The cocaine was hidden between copy paper boxes the two ordered from Brazil via Cape Town to Namibia through the port of Walvis Bay.

Azhar was released on bail in August.

According to the indictment, Noble and Azhar personally approached the port authorities to claim possession of the container and its contents.

It is further stated the container was still closed and sealed - and using a forcible entry tool, Noble broke the seal, and the container was opened.

Upon search, it contained 480 boxes of A4 printing paper - and amongst the boxes of paper, 400 blocks of cocaine were found, weighing 401.52 kg, with a value of N$206 million, the indictment states.

It further says a new seal with the same number was found in one of the boxes.

Noble and Azhar were arrested on the scene - and the cocaine, a dangerous dependence-producing drug, was seized, analysed and found to contain 87% cocaine.

The State is represented by Timo Itula, and the case is presided over by Windhoek High Court Judge Orben Sibeya.

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