Cocaine trafficker jailed for 13 years, fined €30,000 after jury finds him guilty

A cocaine trafficker has been jailed for 13 years and fined €30,000 after being convicted by a jury, over 12 years after his initial arrest

A cocaine trafficker has been jailed for 13 years and fined €30,000 after being convicted by a jury, over 12 years after his initial arrest.

In a decision handed down last Thursday by Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja, Nigerian Kofi Otule Friday was found guilty of supplying and conspiracy to traffic 949 grams of cocaine in August 2009.

Friday had conspired with fellow Nigerians Austin Uche and Tony Johnson to sell, supply and distribute the cocaine to a third person in Malta.

The judge was told how Uche had informed Johnson that he knew a person in Malta who wanted to buy a kilogram of cocaine and that he was ready to make all the necessary arrangements for this drug deal to take place. Johnson had agreed with Uche to get the kilogram of cocaine from Friday.

In execution of these plans, on the 26th of August 2009, Johnson had gone to Friday’s residence in St. Paul's Bay, where he was supplied with the cocaine. Later that day after his meeting with Friday, Johnson had gone to the Marsa Open Centre to meet Uche. According to their plans, Uche and Johnson were to meet another person who had agreed to buy the kilogram of cocaine for around €20,000.

Police Officers from the Drug Squad, who had been tipped off that a drug deal was going to take place, had been observing the area of Ghajn Dwieli, Paola. They had intercepted and arrested both Uche and Johnson. The men had been carrying a bag containing a total of 949.13 grams of cocaine, with its purity calculated at 33.7%. The total street value of this amount of drugs as established by the Court-appointed expert was €72,134, noted the judge.

Johnson had been jailed for nine years and fined €30,000 in 2013 for his part in the drug deal, with Uche being sentenced to 5 years and fined €7,000 after pleading guilty to related charges in 2020.

Legal Aid defence counsel, lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace, had criticised the enormous delays faced by his client in this case. More than twelve years elapsed since the accused’s arraignment, argued the defence, requesting the court to take into account the fact that no monetary compensation that other courts may award would be sufficient to make good for this delay in arriving at the conclusion of these proceedings against the accused.

In sentencing, the judge took into account relevant case law, as well as the fact that the verdict reached by the jury was of seven votes to two and therefore not a minimum verdict. It was true that a considerable period of time had elapsed since arraignment. Yet this lapse of time on its own was not enough to justify a shorter prison sentence against the convict, said the court.

The judge did, however, note that a similar drug trafficking case, against Kingsley Wilcox had been jailed for 15 years and fined €30,000 for trafficking a similar -albeit slightly larger- amount of cocaine.

Friday was sentenced to imprisonment for thirteen years, and ordered to pay a fine of €30,000, together with the payment of one-third of the costs incurred by the experts in their reports, in this case, amounting to the sum of €843.42.

The court also ordered the forfeiture in favour of the Government of Malta of all the property involved in the crimes for which Friday had been found guilty, and all other moveable and immovable property belonging to him.