Death of witness hurts case of Akasha ‘dealer’
The death of Mr Ommer Faruke Kolia, a British national of Indian descent who was a key witness in the case in which the Akasha brothers received drugs from Mr Asif Hafeez, came as a blow to the latter’s case.
Mr Kolia, a resident of Leicester City in the UK, openly revealed full details of his involvement in the 2004 Greek hashish importation and how Mr Asif warned him many times against involving himself in the drugs trade.
Mr Asif is in a British jail fighting extradition to the US, which wants him tried for supplying drugs to Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Abdalla. The two are serving long prison terms in the US following their conviction on drug trafficking charges.
“He asked me many times to stop being involved in the drugs trade,” Mr Kolia in his statement dated February 19, 2018.
“Mr Asif had no connection to the hashish shipment in Greece and had no knowledge that I was even in Greece at the time of his call. His call was entirely coincidental. Mr Asif was not mentioned in the entire interrogation and proceedings and had no involvement in the deal,” he added.
His statements are part of the case filed at the Administrative Court of the King’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in London, which states in part that, even before Mr Kolia died, he had speculated that something bad would happen to him.
“Mr Ifzal Khan (who is also a witness) refers in his statement to meeting Mr Ommer Faruke Kolia, who told him (Mr Khan) that he had made a statement exculpating Mr Hafeez of involvement in the Greek conspiracy; and he was subsequently worried that something bad would happen to him,” the court documents say.
The court filings further add that: “Later, Mr Khan learnt that Mr Ommer Faruke Kolia had died in suspicious circumstances, which increased Mr Khan’s fears for his own safety, prompting him to make his statement.”
The demise of Mr Kolia, who was found dead in a Caribbean hotel, remains a mystery to his family, who have always suspected foul play. The family said he was in good health and had been called by some investigators who wanted some information on drug smuggling when he died.
He found himself in a drugs deal in 2004, when he travelled to Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan, and met with a person known as Mr Kamil Bhatt who tasked him with undertaking a job on his behalf. The job was in Greece and he had offered to pay Mr Kolia Sh1.6 million and he would also cater for all other expenses which include; travel, accommodation and meals.
His task was to travel to Greece to ensure that some drugs imported from Pakistan were of the right quantity.
“I was asked to count all the boxes of hashish, find how much they weighed and also pen down the serial numbers of all the boxes,” he said.
Mr Kolia landed in Greece on January 10, 2005, and was taken to the warehouse by a man who introduced himself as Mr George Baneskou.
Little did he know that he had been trapped and this hit him when he saw Mr Baneskou flee from the warehouse alongside two other men who had accompanied him.
Mr Kolia was arrested and taken to a police station where two Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents questioned him. It is while he was under the watch of the DEA agents that he was called by Mr Asif, who was trying to find out how he was faring on.
“They questioned who he was and I informed them that he was a family friend and that we had known each other for a long time,” he says in his statements.
He was told to inform Mr Asif that the container was at a warehouse in Piraeus and that the DEA agents had agreed that there was no way they could fully link Mr Kolia to the drugs.
According to him, the plan by the DEA agents was to arrest Mr Asif for conspiring to conceal drugs in a container shipment destined for the US.
Similarly, the death of Kenyan lawyer Evans Monari, who had also offered his statements giving an insight into what transpired in Kenya and how the two Akasha brothers, Bollywood star Mamta Kulkarni and her husband Vicky Goswami — an Indian businessman — and Mr Ghulam Hussein, a Pakistan national were extradited has also complicated the matter.
Mr Monari is the lawyer who represented former Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
The lawyer died at Nairobi Hospital where he had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with multiple organ complications.
In his statement, the lawyer faulted the US for forcefully arresting and extraditing the Akasha brothers and the three other suspects despite a court order asking DEA agents who had a case with them to make an appearance in court.
Mr Asif is jailed in Belmarsh Prison in the UK where he shares living space with some of the most dangerous convicts in the world involved in terrorism, human and drug trafficking and other serious crime.
He was arrested in London in August 2017 and since then has been in court challenging his extradition to the US.
The first case he filed at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court was referred to the Secretary of State giving him full permission to decide whether Mr Asif should be extradited.
The Secretary of State in 2019 ordered that he be extradited but the decision was challenged by the District Judge Westminster to the British High Court, which submitted the testimony of a prison consultant on the conditions of detention.
This was, however. rejected by the British High Court, which ruled that the matter should not be taken to the UK Supreme Court. On March 19, 2020, under Article 39 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Mr Asif applied to the ECHR for an interim measure.
To his luck, the following day during the mention of the case, the ECHR ruled that he should not be extradited until the hearing is heard and concluded.
In May 2022, ECHR also allowed him to include more evidence in his case.
Tomorrow: The story of Vicky Goswami, the jailbird who is a key witness against Mr Hafeez Asif the man believed to have supplied drugs to the Akasha brothers