Tanzania sentences Abuja-based trader for life, acquits his girlfriend

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The High Court of Tanzania has sentenced Mike Nwankwo, a clothing retailer in Abuja, Nigeria, to life in prison after finding him guilty of drug trafficking.

Presiding Judge, Mohamed Gwae, however, acquitted the first accused, Nwankwo’s Tanzanian girlfriend Mastura Makongoro due to lack of evidence.

Tanzania’s The Citizen reports that the verdict against the Nigerian trader and his girlfriend was handed down on Friday where Judge Gwae said testimonies of nine witnesses to the prosecution and 18 exhibits confirmed the indictment against the Nigerian citizen beyond any reasonable doubt.

Nwankwo, it appears, shuttled between Nigeria and the East African country.

The prosecution claimed that on 12 February 2014, at Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), the defendants were found transporting 5,126 grams of heroin to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Earlier reports said Nwankwo’s girlfriend Mastura had requested from him 15 million (over N2 million) for her building project, and the Nigerian instead offered to give her a job that would earn her the money. He then assigned her to transport a bag containing the drugs to Sierra Leone.

On the day of their arrest, Nwankwo had escorted Mastura to KIA where she entered and underwent inspections and was given a boarding pass by Ethiopian Airline.

Upon completion, Mastura who was a student at a vocational college in Tanzania, went to sit in the waiting room and her bag was sent to an X-ray machine for inspection.

Security officers became suspicious and called her to remove some of her belongings deemed heavier than the allowable luggage weight the officers suspected something was hidden.

When the officers tore up the bag and saw four envelopes that contained the drugs, Mastura claimed the bag had been given to her by her boyfriend.

The suspect was taken to the KIA Police Station, and while she was being held there, the second accused returned to the scene searching for his girlfriend after he suspected something was wrong. While at the scene, the police suspected that he was the one mentioned as the owner of the bag and arrested him.

Judge Gwae said he was acquitting Mastura because given how the drugs were stored, she would not have been aware that there was anything extra in the bag.

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