A Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) officer has told the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court that out of the 24 kilogrammes of cocaine that went missing under the custody of the court, the Commission only recovered a few grammes.
Choolwe Kaliba, 39, a DEC investigations officer, also admitted that the seven court officials accused of trafficking in the 24Kgs of cocaine were not found with any drugs, adding that the revelation of the first three accused persons is what led to the apprehension of the rest.
In this matter, businessmen Eric Chipango, Emmanuel Chimba and court officials Emmanuel Chirwa; Bearvan Mengo; Mathews Mukanda; Victor Nzaila; Florence Mushoka; O’Brian Muyunda and Didie Kangwa, a senior clerk of court, are charged with four counts of trafficking in cocaine and two counts of theft by servant.
The accused persons are charged with one count of trafficking in 80.11 grammes of cocaine without lawful authority and another count of trafficking in 1Kg of cocaine without lawful authority.
Chimba, a businessman, and Chirwa, a court interpreter, are facing another count of trafficking in 1.5 grammes of cocaine without lawful authority.
Chirwa is also facing one more count of trafficking in 4.5 grammes of cocaine without lawful authority and another count of theft by servant where he is alleged to have stolen 4.5 grammes of cocaine, the property of the government of Zambia.
And all the seven court officials are charged with one count of theft by servant where they are alleged to have stolen 24Kgs of cocaine between August 4, 2017, and August 9, 2018, the property of the government of Zambia.
Kaliba had previously told the Court that on September 5, 2018, he received a call from an informer, saying there were some people who were about to conduct a drug transaction at Cheers Supermarket along Tokyo Road.
He testified that after he drove to the said location in the company of other officers, he found a Toyota Corolla that was being driven by Chipango.
Kaliba said when Chipango’s vehicle was searched, a black plastic containing sachets of cocaine was discovered but the accused refused, arguing that they were not his.
He had told the Court that after Chipango was apprehended, he led the officers to his colleague, Emmanuel Chimba.
However, Chimba also revealed that he got the drugs from Chirwa, a court interpreter at the Magistrates’ Court.
Kaliba testified that after Chirwa and Chimba were arrested, Chirwa later on revealed the names of other court officials involved in cocaine trafficking.
And when he was cross-examined by defence lawyers Jonas Zimba and Keith Mweemba before Magistrate Victoria Chitulangoma, Wednesday, Kaliba claimed that the informer, who allegedly transacted with Chipango, the first accused, was a public informer, adding that he didn’t know him prior to his call.
At this point, Mweemba challenged him, saying: “for that informer to give you that information, he may have something to do with the drugs. You can’t tell whether this informer planted drugs on an innocent person?”
In response, the witness said he couldn’t tell.
The witness also admitted that in its entire operation, DEC didn’t use video evidence or any other methods that could eliminate the dangers of planting drugs on the accused.
Kaliba also said that apart from an exhibit bag, which was found on Chirwa, none of the accused persons were found with the drugs that they were accused of.
The witness further said the 24Kgs of cocaine was also not found on the court officials.
Asked by Zimba whether DEC had recovered the 24Kgs of cocaine, which implicated the accused persons, Kaliba said “we have recovered some grammes.”