DRAMA unfolded at the premises of Koforidua Circuit Court ‘B’ in the Eastern Region yesterday morning after the court refused to grant bail to 32 people arrested for allegedly engaging in illegal mining, popularly called galamsey, in the Atiwa Forest.
The suspects, who had posed as National Security operatives to engage in galamsey in the forest reserve, were refused bail for the second time by the court presided over by Her Honour Mercy Addei Kotei.
The accused persons were remanded into police custody to reappear on June 8, 2021.
Relatives and friends of the accused persons who stormed the court hoping that they (accused persons) would be granted bail were disappointed when the court extended their stay in police custody.
Some wept uncontrollably as the suspects were put in handcuffs and marched into a waiting bus to be sent back to jail.
The 32 accused persons were George Asante, Kwaku Frimpong, Alfred Kyei, Yaw Opoku, Richard Nartey, Paul Osei Kuffour, Dominic Beblie, Samuel Kofi Edusei, Silas Boakye Gyan, Joseph Oduro Asare, Mukaila Attah, Stephen Opoku, Michael Quansah, Derrick Adu Kwakye, Razark Suleman, Stephen Kofi Felan, Dominic Ghansah, Robert Nartey Tetteh, Eric Addei, Yakubu Mohammed aka Jordan 1 and Benlord Abebio aka Commander.
The rest are Adam Dakurugu, Kwame Isaac, Joe Acquah, Emmanuel Arhin, Samuel Asiedu Gyamfra, David Akakpo, Ebenezer Boateng, Joseph Kwaku Gyamfi, Fuseini Alhassan, Alhassan Asibi and Gabriel Dormate.
They are facing a provisional charge of possession of firearms without lawful excuse and mining illegally in forest reserves.
The Eastern Regional Police Command about two weeks ago arrested the accused persons in the Atiwa Forest and retrieved assault rifles, short guns and a pump action gun, 10 rounds of ammunition, 12 Gotta handsets, three handcuffs, four shovels, and an electric shocker.
The prosecution, made up of Dickson Donkor and Helen Samlafo, both State Attorneys, and ASP Silvester Asare, a Police Prosecutor, urged the court to remand the accused persons into police custody for further investigations into some names of individuals mentioned by the accused persons as those who allegedly sent them.
Lawyers for the accused persons, however, countered the prosecution’s request and told the court that their clients will not run away but will be available anytime the court needed them.
However, despite counsel’s plea for bail, the court remanded the accused persons to allow the police to continue with their investigation.
According to the prosecution, the security agencies picked up information that the accused persons armed with dangerous weapons were undertaking illegal mining activities.
The prosecution said the accused persons posed as National Security operatives and were harassing residents of villages around the Atiwa Forest, with their weapons.
A team of officers, both plain clothes and uniformed officers from the National Security Secretariat, were dispatched to the area to ascertain the facts.
The Prosecutor explained that the operatives together with a team from the Regional Police Command proceeded to the Akanteng area of the forest reserve, near Osinease, where the team met and rescued the accused persons from an angry youth at Akanteng, who had earlier accosted them.
He added that after preliminary investigations, it was established that the accused persons were a group of persons who carried themselves as National Security operatives whereas they are not.
The accused persons, using weapons, have been visiting several mining areas within the Ashanti and the Eastern regions to undertake illegal mining activities, according to the prosecution.
It was also established that the accused persons as part of their unlawful activities threatened, demanded, and seized an unspecified kilo of gold and huge cash from certain small-scale miners.
Further investigation confirmed that on May 4, the accused persons were digging for gold when the residents of Akanteng pounced on them and arrested them.
They were later brought to Accra for further interrogation where it was detected they were not from the National Security.
They however, claimed ownership of the weapons retrieved, according to the prosecution.
FROM Daniel Bampoe, Koforidua