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Five on trial for selling drugs

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The accused Nigerians, back row, leave court after an earlier appearance. Koh Santepheap

Two Nigerian men and their three Cambodian girlfriends went on trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for allegedly trafficking more than half a kilo of crystal methamphetamine in Phnom Penh last year.

Presiding Judge Im Vannak identified the Nigerians as Alhassain Safianu, 38, and Jude Chidieberes Chukwujeku, 36, both tourists.

The women were identified as Chea Sophy, 36, Ay Sokunthear, 36, and Srey Sinath, 37.

Judge Vannak said they were charged with drug trafficking after being arrested by officers with the Interior Ministry’s Anti Transnational Crime Department in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on August 17.

Major Heng Then, deputy chief of the Anti Transnational Crime Department, said yesterday that Mr Safianu was the ringleader of a drug gang operating in Cambodia to which the other four belonged.

He said Mr Safianu and his girlfriend Ms Sokunthear were arrested on the morning of August 17 after they were caught with a package of shoes with drugs hidden inside the high heels at a post office in Daun Penh district. They aimed to post the package to Australia, he said.

Maj Then said police seized 184 grams of crystal methamphetamine from them.

He said based on their confessions, police arrested the other three accused at a rental apartment in the district’s Dangkor commune, where they seized 350 grams of crystal methamphetamine from Mr Chukwujeku.

At yesterday’s trial, the five denied being involved in drug trafficking.

Ms Sokunthear said that on the day of her arrest, she was paid $100 by Mr Safianu to take the package of shoes to the post office.

She said she and Mr Safianu took a taxi motorbike to the post office and she went in to post the package while he waited outside.

She added that she was later arrested by police after postal officials inspected the parcel and found the drugs hidden in the shoes.

“I did not know that there were drugs hidden inside the shoes. If I had known, I would not have carried it for him,” she said. “I only knew about the drugs after I was arrested and police showed them to me.”

“I was very shocked when I saw the drugs,” she added.

She asked the court to drop the charge and release her from prison.

Mr Safianu said the package belonged to another Nigerian nicknamed “Innocent”.

He said he was asked by his friend Innocent to post 24 pairs of women’s shoes to a friend living in Australia. He then hired Ms Sokunthear, who can speak English, and travelled with her to the post office.

Mr Safianu also claimed that he did not know that there were drugs hidden inside the shoes and only found out about them after his arrest.

“I was not the owner of drugs seized. I was not the drug trafficker. I knew nothing about this. I absolutely deny the allegations,” he said.

Mr Chukwujeku said that he has known Mr Safianu since 2016, but did not know about his activities. He said that he was arrested because he had been staying in Mr Safianu’s rental apartment on the day police raided it.

“Police raided the apartment and caught me. They accused me of being a drug trafficker,” he said. “They showed me the seized drugs but I did not know anything about them”

“I am innocent. I do not know anything about this case. I would like to ask the court to release me,” he added.

The trial will continue in August.

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