The alleged mastermind behind the gang that kidnapped two Canadian ladies in the Ashanti Regional capital of Kumasi last month has admitted playing a role in the crime which attracted international attention.
“My Lord, I want to sincerely apologise to the victims and their families, and also to the Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Nigeria for the shame brought upon them,” Sampson Aghalor pleaded in court yesterday.
Sampson Aghalor, aka Romeo, according to the security agencies, is the chief strategist and financier of the group that kidnapped the two ladies and later demanded a ransom of $800,000 for their release.
Aghalor, who is standing trial at the Accra High Court alongside seven others, admitted playing a role in the crime and, therefore, begged for forgiveness.
According to state prosecutors, Aghalor is a Nigerian who has been living in Ghana for some time. And he managed to recruit two more of his colleagues into the criminal gang.
Aside from the recruitment, the suspect allegedly made money available for the renting of a vehicle, an apartment in a secluded area outside Kumasi and provided two pistols and ammunition for their kidnapping activities.
Appearing before the court yesterday, the suspect begged the families of the victims for forgiveness for the trauma he had caused them.
Besides, he used the opportunity to apologise to Ghana and his home country, Nigeria, for the shame his action had brought.
In the course of the trial, some of the accused persons alleged they were severely tortured in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), where they had been remanded in by the court.
Seidu Abubakari, aka Mba, Sampson Aghalor and Yussif Yakubu, all alleged that they were subjected to severe beatings and various forms of physical torture in the custody of the BNI.
In the case of Mba, his lawyer, Andrew Vortia, told the court that his client who is diabetic had been subjected to “physical torture of all forms,” claiming his client has marks on his body to prove that he was tortured.
That drew the attention of the presiding judge, Justice George Buadi, who invited Mba to approach him so he could take a closer look at his body.
After checking Mba’s body, the judge said there was no ‘feasible’ marks on his body to prove that he had been subjected to physical torture.
Sampson Aghalor also entered the fray, alleging that he was being tortured to forcibly write a statement.
He further told the court that he, indeed, played a role in the crime but not to the extent the state prosecutors were alleging.
“I want to reiterate that the BNI tortured me and compelled me to write a statement against me and the others. I am not saying I am completely innocent but not entirely as being stated by the state lawyers,” he claimed.
He added “the conditions at the BNI cell are not good. We are cut off from interacting with our families and I haven’t been given the chance to interact with my pregnant wife and she had to go back to Nigeria,” he claimed.
The accused persons then pleaded with the court to take them into prison custody so they could get the opportunity to ‘mingle’ with other inmates.
However, Hilda Craig, a senior state attorney, described the claims of torture to be “afterthoughts and fabricated stories to make the BNI look bad.”
She said the accused persons cannot be sent to Nsawam when they are needed for investigations. She proposed that they should be in BNI custody so that investigations could be concluded quickly.
Justice Buadi ordered that the accused persons should remain in BNI custody as there was no evidence that they had been subjected to any form of physical torture.
The state said they are still conducting further investigations into the matter and pleaded with the court to give them two more weeks to conclude the investigations.
According to Ms. Craig, the police were interacting with the victims through the Canadian High Commission and would soon bring finality to their investigation.
Meanwhile, the police are still hunting for two more suspects in connection with the case.
The two have only been identified as Mohammed and Dery who are said to be residents of Kumasi.