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Trial resumes for alleged Nigerian drug traffickers

A group of eight Nigerians arrested for drug trafficking appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
A group of eight Nigerians arrested for drug trafficking appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Niem Chheng

Trial resumes for alleged Nigerian drug traffickers

The case of eight Nigerian nationals and a Cambodian woman arrested on allegations of drug trafficking resumed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, with police saying that the group worked together as team despite several of the defendants’ denials.

All eight Nigerians were arrested on January 8, 2015, at three different places, while their alleged ringleader, Obieze Kenneth Uche, also known as John or Jack, is still at large. Morm Vanyong, a Cambodian woman who allegedly worked in the operation, was also arrested.

Police found drugs and scales in Uche’s apartment, and anti-drug police official Yin Panharith said the arrests were made after months of surveillance and undercover activities.

“They had a structure. Their leader is Jack, who had a Cambodian wife. Jack told all the suspects to bring drugs to the buyers by passing them through their agents, one to one,” Panharith said.

Defendant Tony Chukwuonye yesterday testified that he had brought drugs from Uche to Vanyong only once, though police had accused him of doing it several times, most recently bringing her four packages of drugs and receiving almost $20,000 from her. Police also said they found two sets of scales at Chukwuonye’s house.

Judge Khy Chai also questioned defendants Okorom Nhabui Favour and Okorom Kizito Chimedu, brothers who were arrested in a church near Boeung Tompun, asking Favour why did not cooperate with the police.

“You locked the door and went upstairs for three hours until the police broke the door down. Why did you do that?” Chai asked.

Favour responded he had been frightened by the sight of men in plain clothes with guns, but Panharith accused him and two other suspects of trying to destroy evidence.

Fellow defendant Francis Nnamdi, meanwhile, admitted to meeting Vanyong, but said he had believed the meeting was related to a community organisation he was involved with. He denied having any knowledge of the other defendants.

Four other defendants – Okarom Kizito Chimedu, Simon Maduka Ukandu, Sunday Nwa Buisi and Nna Mezie Victor – denied any involvement in the trafficking, but said they had seen each other at church.

Vanyong and the last Nigerian defendant, Izuchukwu Chukwuma, did not testify yesterday, and judge Chai said he wanted to try Vanyong separately.

The hearing will resume at an unspecified date.

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