Moshi. A resident of Mwembechai in Dar es Salaam, Ms Sophia Kingazi, had high hopes that an appeal she lodged against a 20-year jail term for drug trafficking would succeed.
But the decision of the Court of Appeal last Wednesday to uphold the conviction and raised a Sh10 million fine she was initially ordered to pay to Sh506 million has left her jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Moshi held that the High Court had erred when it delivered a sentence that was too lenient for someone who had been convicted of drug trafficking.
High Court Judge Benedict Mingwa found guilty and convicted Ms Sophia in June 2016 of trafficking in cocaine worth Sh168.9m. He sentenced her to 20 years in jail and ordered her to pay Sh10 million fine.
The Sh506m raised fine is equivalent to three times the value of the drugs that she was found in possession.
She was arrested at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia) in May 2012 as she prepared to board an Ethiopian Airline airplane to Barcelona in Spain. Upon inspection she was found carrying 3,379.54 grams of Cocaine in her suitcase.
A total of 11 witnesses had testified in support of the prosecution case. A suit case lebbed S. Kingazi that was used to carry the drugs was produced in court as exhibit. Dissatisfied with the sentence, Sophia advanced to the Court of Appeal challenging the conviction, sentence and an order to pay Sh10 million.
She argued that The High Court erred in founding her guilty on an offence that has not been proved beyond doubt. She also argued that the High Court Judge did not consider the fact that there was a breakdown in the chain of keeping exhibits.
She protested prosecution’s reliance on airport security personnel instead of producing independent witnesses on arrival to tell who was the owner of the suitcases in which the cocaine was found. But a senior state attorney, Abdalah Chavulla, who was being assisted by Advocate Ignas Mwinuka, insisted that the High Court Judge ruling was fair.
The three judges of the Court of Appeal (Shaban Lila, Mwanaisha Kwariko and Lugano Mwandambo) rejected the appeal.
the arguments and upholed Sophia’s conviction and sentence.