A court in India has sentenced two Malawians to 10 years each for possessing 104 packets containing 31.6 kilogrammes (kg) of stimulant drugs known as ephedrine hydrochloride.
The two, identified as Maria Anni Masangano, 29; and Njaidi Frazer Chimatiro, 26, have been in police custody in India for the past four years for trial at Ahmedabad City Sessions Court.
According to Times of India Online December 24 2017 edition, the duo was arrested at Ahmedabad Airport on October 20 2013 as they were about to board a plane to Malawi.
The report says the two were reported to Customs authorities by airport officials and upon searching their six bags they found the 104 packets of the white powder. They were detained on suspicion of smuggling drugs out of India.
“The FSL analysis revealed that the substance was ephedrine hydrochloride, a controlled substance which cannot be carried without a no-objection certificate from the Central Bureau of Narcotics. The Malawi citizens did not have an NOC and they were booked for violation of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC),” reports the paper.
Masangano and Chimatiro, whose full particulars were not revealed, also faced charges of criminal conspiracy as the State government and the Customs department alleged that they were peddling drugs in conspiracy with a Nigerian citizen only identified as James, who was stationed in Delhi.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Isaac Munlo said government was aware of the incident and that they were already in touch with the Indian Government.
He said: “We are aware about the issue because when they were arrested that was the responsibility of our Malawi High Commission in India. We have been monitoring the situation and we have also been in touch with them and the officer-in-charge of the Malawi consular services had been visiting them.”
Munlo, who was Malawi’s High Commissioner to India at the time of the two’s arrest, said the Malawi office in India also used to collaborate with the government of India on the matter.
“But like anywhere else, the justice system is a bit slow so the case took time and they take issues of drugs very seriously. Now that they have made a judgement, we are negotiating if they can serve their sentence here in Malawi.
“But at the moment we don’t have that agreement with India, although there are memorandums of understanding [MoUs] ready to be signed with them and one of them covers that area of exchange prisoners,” he said.
However, Munlo said the MoU also covers the area of negotiating as the issue is supposed to be reciprocal.
“So whether they will be willing to negotiate on that basis… if they are not willing there is nothing we can do,” he said.
The two Malawians’ trial began in 2014 before the court found them guilty and punished them with the jail terms and a fine of 50 000 rupees each (about K565 000), the paper said quoting Customs’ counsel Sudhir Gupta.
According to online definitions, ephedrine hydrochloride is a powerful medication for the relief of asthma, bronchitis, allergies, narcolepsy, obesity and cold and flu symptoms. It is also used as a stimulant.