Nigerian Drug Trafficker Trial Ends
The charges against eight Nigerian nationals accused of drug trafficking were upheld yesterday on the final day of their trial, and the judge will release his verdict on September 12.
Srey Makny, a substitute prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the eight, along with one Cambodian woman, were arrested after police caught the group allegedly trafficking one kilogram of crystal methamphetamine in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district in January 2015.
Presiding Judge Khy Chhay named the nine on trial as Okorom Nhabu Favor, 36, Izuchukwu Chuwuma, 40, Nnamezie Victor, 30, Simon Maduka Ukadu, 45, Sunday Nwabusi, 31, Okorom Kizito Chimedu, 35, Francis Nnamedi, 30, Tony Mmaduka Chuwuonye, 34, and Morn Vinyung, 31.
They were all charged under article 40 of the Drug Law.
Despite an admission of guilt from Ms. Vinyung, Mr. Chuwuonye’s girlfriend at the time of their arrest, all eight men denied the charges against them, saying they were Christian missionaries who came to Phnom Penh to open a church.
Captain Proeung Pheap, deputy chief of the Anti-Drug Unit at the 9th Intervention Police Office in the Ministry of Interior’s anti-drug department, said the group was using their Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries church as a front for a drug ring, hiding their identities and trafficking under the guise of missionary work.
He claimed police discovered the illegal operation after Ms. Vinyung delivered drugs to undercover officers three separate times at the Sovanna supermarket in Chamkarmon district in January 2015.
“Among these nine accused people, Morn Vinyung and Francis Nnamedi were arrested after they brought a package of drugs for sale to our undercover officer,” he said. “The other accused people were later arrested based on the answers of Morn Vinyung and Francis Nnamedi.”
The other seven men were arrested when police raided three rented homes in Chamkarmon district’s Boeung Tumpon commune in Phnom Penh on January 8 and 9 in 2015.
Police arrested another Cambodian woman found at one of the homes but later released her. During the raids, police found six large packages of crystal methamphetamine weighing 802.44 grams and other drug-related paraphernalia. Police said they had been watching the group for a long time and alleged that their ringleader, Obieze Kenneth Uche, was still on the run.
During the trial, Ms. Vinyung said she had been dating Mr. Chuwuonye, also known as Tony, for three months before their arrest. She told the court that her boyfriend paid her $100 to take a package to an unidentified man three separate times.
“I admit that I really did bring the package from Tony and gave it to his clients at the Sovanna supermarket, but I did not know that the packages were drugs,” she told the court. “If I had known that the packages were drugs, I would not have agreed to bring them, even though Tony offered to pay me money.”
The eight Nigerian nationals vehemently denied the allegations, saying they were Christians, not drug dealers.
Mr. Chuwuonye acknowledged that he had dated Ms. Vinyung, but said he never asked her to take drugs anywhere.
“I was not a drug trafficker. I am a Christian missionary. I did not do any of the things I am accused of,” he said.
Mr. Victor, the leader of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries church in Phnom Penh, said he volunteered to come to Cambodia from Nigeria as a Christian missionary in 2014 and has run the church in Chamkarmon district since then.
“Police arrested me while I was praying at my own home. They handcuffed me and called me a drug dealer,” he said. “But I don’t know anything about this case or about any drugs. I am the victim of accusations and arrest by the police.”
He claimed police forced him to confess during an interrogation session.
Mr. Chimedu, Mr. Victor’s brother and an assistant at his church, said he had nothing to do with drug dealing but was arrested when police raided his home in Boeung Tumpon commune on January 8. Police found no drugs or paraphernalia at his home during their raid, he said.
“I was a church assistant, and my job was to prepare bibles and prayer ceremonies for foreigners every weekend,” he said. “I have never smoked or used drugs in my life. I’ve never even seen drugs.”
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