Drug trafficker walks free due to discrepancies in witness testimony

Velana International Airport. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

A Pakistani man accused of smuggling drugs into Maldives by hiding them inside his shoes has walked free following discrepancies in the testimony of State witnesses as well as other evidence.

Mirza Imthiyaz Baig was charged with drug trafficking after Customs officers at the airport found drugs inside the shoes he was wearing shortly after he arrived in Maldives on an Emirates flight on the afternoon of May 2, 2017.

Customs officers removed the sole of the shoes and found two rubber packets wrapped in tape containing 975.8 grams of diamorphine (heroin).

Three Customs officers and one police station inspector who investigated the case testified against Mirza as State witnesses in Criminal Court.

The Criminal Court issued its verdict in the case on January 21.

The court found discrepancies between testimonies of State witnesses and some of the evidence.

Customs officers testified they found the drugs inside the shoes Mirza was wearing. However, photographs submitted by the State as evidence show Mirza wearing sandals.

When questioned, the Customs officers said they have no knowledge of how Mirza came to wear the sandals.

The court also found discrepancies between the report compiled by Customs and the report compiled by the police regarding the weight of the drugs found on Mirza.

One Customs officer testified the drugs weighted approximately 1.7 kilos, while the station inspector who prepared the police analysis report testified that he did not see Customs’ report, and is not aware of how the discrepancies in the two reports with regard to the weight of the drugs came to be.

One of the Customs officers testified that the drugs were in a bag wrapped in white transparent tape, while the other testified the drugs were in a bag wrapped in brown nontransparent tape.

The court also noted that one of the Customs officers testified that Mirza came to Maldives on flight EK656, while documents submitted by the State show he came on flight EK652.

Mirza asked for police documents to establish whether he was assigned a lawyer during the investigation, but the State said they tried to get the documents through the investigative officer in charge of the case, but could not find the documents, making them unable to establish he was assigned a lawyer during the investigation stage.

The right to legal representation is a constitutional right. If a suspect in a criminal case wants a lawyer but does not have the means to appoint a lawyer himself, then a lawyer needs to be appointed for him by the State.

The Criminal Court ruled that in light of doubt over the drugs were found on Mirza, and due to discrepancies in witness testimony and evidence, they do not find Mirza guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The court said that the doubt regarding whether Mirza is criminally liable for the drugs can only be alleviated based on fingerprints and other forensic evidence linking him to the drugs, but that no such evidence were submitted.