Eight Nigerians Get 10 Years for Trafficking Meth

Eight Nigerians were sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday following a sting operation last year that culminated with an undercover officer purchasing 100 grams of crystal methamphetamine from one of the eight.

Police have painted the group as part of an international criminal ring importing the drug—also known as ice—from Africa in 20- to 30-kg batches for more than three years, though presented no evidence apart from what was gathered during the sting. 

“The court decides to sentence the eight Nigerians to ten years in prison and fines them [about $5,000] each for drug trafficking,” Judge Top Chhun Heng announced.

Ime Johanudom, 52, the target of the sting, said in hearings in July that he was a courier for another Nigerian man he had met on the street and knew only as Mr. Frank, and that the sale was a one-off occurrence.

However, following his arrest, police say he led them to the seven others, who have maintained their innocence throughout proceedings. Five of the eight were found to be in Cambodia without a valid passport, while the remainder had no visa, according to police.

A ninth man arrested in the sweep—who is contracted to Na­gaCorp football club—was later released after police decided he was not part of the ring.

None of the seven was in possession of ice when arrested, though police found marijuana in the home of Echwodo Sam Son, 33, who sells drinks and food from his residence.

After the court made its decision, Im Socheat, the lawyer for Mr. Sam Son, said that the courts had misconstrued legitimate customers as drug buyers.

“We can see my client is just a seller so of course there are many people going in and out, he said. “If he was trafficking drugs it would be in a secret place.”

The other six sentenced were identified as Oragwan Godwin Emeka, 23; Ezigbogabriel Chuk­wueloka, 41; Migael Nwankwo, 24; Ikechukwu Onyinyechi Thed­daus, 37; Okechukwu Ikefuaku, 26; and Faviur Ibezi Mako Ober­ta, 35.

As they were being led back to the prison van on Friday, Mr. Jo­hanudom said that he was not part of a drug syndicate.

“I only took police to find traffickers, I am not a drug trafficker,” he said.

Mr. Sam Son again professed his innocence.

“The police arrested us but they organized it because they wanted to show that we are involved in crime,” he said. “The evidence that was found [marijuana] is not a drug, it’s an ingredient [for soup].”

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