Namibia: Verdict Next Step in Record Cocaine Trial

A POSSIBILITY that cocaine was placed in a shipping container without the knowledge of two Walvis Bay residents charged with smuggling a record quantity of the drug into Namibia cannot be ruled out, the men's defence lawyer has suggested in the Windhoek High Court.

Defence lawyer Sisa Namandje has raised this possibility in written arguments provided to judge Orben Sibeya before he is to decide what his verdict in the trial of Walvis Bay residents Grant Noble (40) and Dinath Azhar (66) will be.

Sibeya heard closing arguments in the two accused men's trial on Friday. He postponed the delivery of his judgement to 28 July.

The state is alleging that Noble and Azhar smuggled a Namibian record quantity of 412 kilogrammes of cocaine, with an estimated street-market value of N$206 million, into the country between February and 15 June 2018, by having it shipped from Brazil to Walvis Bay.

Police and customs officers discovered the cocaine in a shipping container, hidden in boxes supposedly containing printing paper, on 15 June 2018.

The court heard during the trial that the container was picked to be searched after customs officials received a tip-off about drugs possibly being on the way from Brazil to Walvis Bay in a container that might have paper inside.

In his arguments, state advocate Tangeni Iitula asked the judge to convict Noble and Azhar on a charge of dealing in cocaine. He argued that the court should conclude from the evidence before it that Noble and Azhar had both been involved in the importation of the container in which the cocaine was discovered, and that they knew there was cocaine hidden in the container.

Iitula argued as well that Noble and Azhar were "trying to hide behind the corporate veil" by claiming the container was imported by the close corporation, Zeeki Trading CC, and not by themselves personally.

The two men have told the court that while Noble is the sole member of Zeeki Trading, he serves as a front for Azhar, who due to past debts did not want to set up a corporate entity in his own name.

In his written arguments, Iitula also claimed that Zeeki Trading "was established illegitimately for dishonest and improper reasons", and that Noble and Azhar used it as a conduit through which their alleged crime was orchestrated.

Namandje, who asked the judge to acquit the two accused, argued that the state's case was of a poor quality, which he remarked was aggravated by poor police investigations and a multitude of alleged irregularities in the matter.

He noted that the police did not investigate the circumstances in which the container was loaded in the port of Santos in Brazil, before it was shipped to Cape Town and then transported to Walvis Bay.

The police also did not investigate claims that some "white men" had made inquiries about the container at Walvis Bay about a month before it was opened and cocaine was allegedly found inside, and that they had also indicated they were aware of cocaine being in the container.

In his written arguments, Namandje added that the court was in the dark about whether the suspected cocaine was placed in the container in Brazil or in Cape Town.

There is a possibility that the container had been interfered with while it was being shipped from Brazil to Walvis Bay, he said.

He also argued that a scientist who tested the 400 bags of suspected cocaine found in the container, and reported that it contained 85% cocaine on average, did not show she had used internationally accepted methods to carry out the testing and reach her conclusion.

Noble has been held in custody since his arrest on 15 June 2018.

Azhar was in custody for some three years and three months, until he was released on bail in September last year.

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