Gambia jails eight in huge drugs bust
Banjul - A Gambian court on Wednesday sentenced eight foreigners to 50 years in prison for trafficking cocaine worth a billion dollars.
The convicts are four Venezuelans, two Dutchmen, a Mexican and a Nigerian, an AFP correspondent reported. Another accused Venezuelan died before the judgement.
They were found guilty on nine out of ten charges of drug trafficking and also fined around $1.8m.
"The Gambia government has made its position known on issues relating to drug trafficking and, as a result, I am going to send a signal to other drug traffickers that Gambia is a no-go area for them," Magistrate Lamin Tabally said when delivering his judgement.
The convicts were arrested in June 2010 in a small fishing village some 30 miles from Banjul where they had stashed 2.1 tons of cocaine in an underground bunker whose entrance was concealed behind a false wall in a fishing warehouse.
The cocaine was estimated to have a market value of $1bn and was destined for Europe, according to the police.
Prosecutors called in 17 witnesses to testify during the trial, which was held under tight security.
Prior to Wednesday's judgement, prison authorities from Gambia's notorious Mile 2 Prisons confirmed the death of one of the accused, Venezuelan national Dose Fermin.
"I would like to inform this honourable court that the fourth accused person, Dose Fermin died a natural death on Sunday 9th October," Babucar Jatta, chief medic at the prison, told the court.
Defence lawyers said they will appeal the judgment.