Drug case against suspect wanted in the US starts afresh

Thursday August 14 2014
leila

Kenyan businesswoman Naima Nyakinywa, alias Mwanaidi Mfundo, who is facing drug trafficking charges, leaves the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Inset is Ms Nyakinywa when she appeared in court last September. PHOTOS | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER AND FILE

Dar es Salaam. The drug trafficking case facing a Kenyan businesswoman wanted in the US over transatlantic narcotic business is to start afresh.

The new twist in the high profile case comes three years since the arrest and arraignment of Naima Nyakinywa, alias Mwanaidi Mfundo or Mama Leila, for drug related charges.

State prosecutors have opted to re-start the case of the suspect described by US authorities as being among seven most-wanted drug kingpins in the region.

The matter had been heard in the High Court over the years but has now been taken back to Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court for fresh committal proceeding. The prosecution apparently wants to reorganise its case.

Nyakiniywa and her co-accused appeared at the Kisutu Court yesterday for the start of the case, which, however, could not proceed, as presiding magistrate Mr Frank Moshi was indisposed. It will be mentioned again on August 21.

In the case, eight suspects are accused of trafficking cocaine worth Sh225 million. They were arrested in June 2011 in Dar es Salaam’s Mbezi suburb. The other suspects are two other Kenyans — Ben Ngare and Anthony Karanja, Tanzanians Sarah Munuo, Alma Said, Yahya Ibrahim, Aisha Kungwi and Rajabu Juma.

Advertisement

Initially, the case was under Justice Grace Mwakipesile of the High Court in September 2013. She is, however, no longer involved as the file was placed under Judge Shaban Lila when the new window to hear criminal cases opened this year.

It was Justice Mwakipesile who in September allowed the admission of two key prosecution witnesses from the office of the Chief Government Chemist and the police to give evidence. Their exclusion could have delt a serious blow to the prosecution case.

The defence then vigorously opposed the calling of Ms Betha Mamuya, a government chemist, who examined and certified the drugs on grounds that she had not been listed as a witness during committal proceedings.

Justice Mwakipesile overruled the objection but rapped the prosecutors for what he termed a deliberate move not to include their statements during the preliminary hearing as the law requires. However, when Justice Lila took over, he was of a different opinion on the admission of the two witnesses.

He stuck to the fact that their testimony should have come earlier on. He agreed with lawyers defending the eight accused that section 289 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code barred prosecution from calling, at trial stage, a witness whose statement had not been read during committal proceedings.

Left with no option, last month the Director of Public Prosecution entered a nolle preseque –a notification to drop the case at the High Court.

The move earned the suspects temporary freedom as they were immediately re-arrested and charged afresh at the lower court, meaning the case will start from scratch. They are in custody as the offence is not bailable.

Nyakiniywa and seven others were listed in 2011 as wanted suspects by the US and some EU governments for questioning over drug business.

In a letter to the Congress, President Obama, under the Kingpin Act, blocked all property and interests in property, subject to US jurisdiction, owned or controlled by significant foreign narcotics traffickers.

The designation means that the Kingpins cannot do business with an American citizen or an organisation registered in America because that would expose it to heavy penalties.