Source: Pastor in court over $126m cocaine | The Herald (Crime & Court News)
Fairness Moyana in Hwange
A NIGERIAN pastor has been arrested at Victoria Falls International Airport after being found in possession of over 2,33kg cocaine stuffed in hats and jackets, with a street value of $126 752 000.
Desmond Onyii Onuoha (46) is of Number 22 Samuel Eknola Street, Lagos in Nigeria.
He appeared before regional magistrate, Mr Collet Ncube facing drug trafficking and possession charges following his arrest on October 23.
The court heard that on October 22, detectives from the Drugs and Narcotics Victoria Falls received information to the effect that Onuoha was travelling from Brazil via Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia using a Nigerian passport number B50060514 on-board an Ethiopian Airways ET0829 and was suspected to be carrying drugs.
The following day at around 11.30am, a team of detectives proceeded to Victoria Falls International Airport where they acquired a passenger manifest for the incoming aeroplanes and established that Onuoha was on the list.
Around 12.30pm, the detectives identified Onuoha and observed him as he went through the check-in process, having switched passports to Ghanaian passport number G0559957. But the detectives intercepted him and took him to the police post at the airport for a check and search.
A thorough search was conducted resulting in the recovery of a white gel-wrapped in selotape and stashed in the linings of hats and jackets. A preliminary drug test conducted in Onuoha’s presence tested positive for cocaine leading to his arrest.
The recovered drugs weighed in the presence of accused. The total weight was 2 330g giving a street value of $126 752 000.
Onuoha, represented by Mrs Khumalo of Ncube and Partners, denied the charge arguing that he did not know the contents of the bag found with the cocaine, but had been asked to drop it off in Victoria Falls by one of his congregants.
Taking the witness stand during the opening of the defence case, Onuoha claimed he was married to a Zimbabwean woman and had come into the country to pay lobola for her.
“I’m a pastor in Nigeria and so I announced in church that I was travelling to Zimbabwe to see my mother-in-law for paying lobola in Bulawayo. I have been legally married to her since February of this year.
“One of my congregants then approached me and asked me to drop a bag for someone at Victoria Falls Airport since I had indicated that I would pass through there to see a friend. I don’t know anything about the bag especially its contents let alone the mentioned drugs. I was surprised when the police searched the bags and found drugs,” said Onuoha.
A copy of a marriage certificate produced by the defence was opposed from being tendered as evidence of the marriage as the prosecution argued they were not furnished with it.
In addition, the State led by Mr Vusumizi Mangena argued that they could not accept its admission on the basis that it was not certified as presented by the defence. Judgment on that point is set for tomorrow.
A number of tourists have been arrested at the resort city while trying to smuggle dangerous drugs at the airport this year.