A Gambian court on Wednesday sentenced eight foreigners to 50 years in prison for trafficking US$1 billion of cocaine.
The men were four Venezuelans, two Dutchmen, a Mexican and a Nigerian, a correspondent reported. Another Venezuelan who had been accused of trafficking died before the judgement.
They were found guilty on nine out of 10 charges of drug trafficking and also fined 50 million Gambian dalasis (US$1.8 million).
“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 men were arrested in June last year in afishing village about 50km from Banjul where they had stashed 2.1 tonnes 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 US$1 billion and was destined for Europe, according to 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 honorable 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.
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the judgement.
The others convicted on Wednesday were: Rudy Rasoehamid Gazi and Dennis Wilgo Winter, both Dutch nationals; Ephriam Micheal Chiduben, Nigerian national; George Sanchez, a Mexican/Liberian national; and Juan Carlos Sanchez, Eric Bottini, Juan Carlos Diaz and Esteaban Zavala of Venezuela.