10 arrested, as 24kg missing cocaine implicates magistrates, DEC officers, court officials

Magistrates Court: File picture

The Drug Enforcement Commission in Lusaka has arrested about 10 Lusaka Magistrates’ Court officials in connection with 24kg of cocaine which went missing last month.

And Judicial and Allied Workers Union of Zambia president Peter Mwale says he is disgusted by the manner in which DEC officers are torturing poor civil servants and trying to force them to give up their colleagues.

The cocaine was an exhibit in a matter in which Sydney Mwansa, Shaibu Likuta and Teddy Matanda are jointly charged with trafficking and are appearing before chief resident magistrate Kenneth Mulife.

According to sources, the cocaine was reported missing after DEC had already called 11 witnesses to the stand.

The state told the court that the exhibits had gone missing in August 2018 and investigations were launched although the state proceeded to call other witnesses.

However, a combined team of law enforcement agencies arrested about 10 court officials last Thursday and began to search their houses.

“You know, when suspects are apprehended, whatever drugs they are found in possession with are taken to the lab at UTH to confirm what type of drugs they are. So it was the same in that case and when the cocaine was discovered missing during one of the court sittings, an excuse was given that rats had eaten it. But that raised suspicion because the cocaine had been replaced with some other unknown substance. So how could rats have eaten the cocaine and replaced it? So eventually, the Judiciary had to lodge in a complaint of theft with the police and that’s when investigations began,” the source narrated.

“Last week, DEC started making some arrests and so far, about 10 people that I am sure of are in police custody at different holding cells. Among them are court interpreters and there are also some outsiders. They have even started searching their houses because you know, 24kg of cocaine is a lot of money. You can imagine, someone can pay K2,000 for just 0.2 grams of cocaine now imagine 24kg. And that cocaine was originally destined for South Africa.”

The source said about four DEC officers were also being investigated in connection to the same case.

“What we are told now is that even some DEC officers are being investigated and other law enforcement wings like the OP have joined the operation and it appears they want to look into some magistrates as well but we shall see how it goes. The case is supposed to come up for ruling on case to answer any time soon but with these developments, I don’t know how that will work out,” said the sources.

And in an interview, Judicial and Allied Workers Union of Zambia president Peter Mwale said he was disgusted by the manner in which DEC officers are torturing poor civil servants and trying to force them to give up their colleagues.

“It is true, it is not a joke! They are being arrested like chickens, being harassed! How do you go with guns to arrest Judiciary officers? And these are just very poor general officers in the judiciary who are suffering. Imagine! We are not going to accept this and if this continues, all judiciary workers who are unionised will stop handling cases of DEC. The DEC themselves will be bringing their own interpreters, they will be bringing their own clerks of court, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Mwale.

“I am challenging you to go to Woodlands Police and see how these people are being tortured. And you can imagine they have not been charged since Thursday. I have already seen the chief resident magistrate Kennth Mulife to complain about how these people are being treated and I want to see the DEC commissioner also because these poor civil servants cannot be treated in this manner. How can you be tortouring people and asking them to give up their colleagues on matters that they have no clue about?”

He charged that there was a cartel within DEC which knew exactly what had happened to the cocaine.

But DEC deputy public relations officer Kamufisa Manchishi said the commission could not give out any information because the investigation was still active.

“We are aware that the matter was reported to the police by the Judiciary concerning theft among other things and of course there is a component that we ourselves as the commission have to get involved in the investigations. So of course the investigations are ongoing and there is nothing for us to give out at the moment because it is an active investigation,” said Manchishi in an interview.

         

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