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Ruling in Sal drug trafficking case postponed until October 29 Julho 2009

The ruling in the trial of five suspects in the Sal drug trafficking case (José Jorge, Tigana, Zé Pote, Naiss and Lígia Furtado), originally slated to be handed down on July 31, has been postponed until October, immediately after the beginning of the next judicial year. Public prosecutors have recommended heavy sentences ranging between 15 and 29 years for the accused, and the money laundering law is also expected to be invoked, considering the wealth assumed to have resulted from drug trafficking accumulated by the defendants.

The trial was one of the longest in recent memory in Sal district court, spanning three weeks and resulting in the arrest at Sal’s Amílcar Cabral International Airport of defense lawyer Manuel Barbosa following the end of the trial. The affirmations of witness Zany Filomeno that the lawyer had served as an intermediary in the drug trafficking ring’s monetary transactions led prosecutors to request Barbosa be arrested and held in preventative custody.

Prior to citing Barbosa, Zany Filomeno had already implicated Lígia Furtado, Tigana, Naiss and Zé Pote. Among her other revelations, Filomeno, who is serving a sentence on drug-trafficking charges, claimed during the trial that Barbosa and defendants Zé Pote and Naiss had devised a plan to help three foreign citizens (one Portuguese, one Spaniard and one German) escape from prison after they were caught in possession of three suitcases containing a total of 70 kilograms of cocaine.

Zany Filomeno also explained that former TACV Cabo Verde Airlines flight attendant Lígia Furtado had agreed to transport drugs in exchange for 300,000 escudos for every kilogram of cocaine carried. According to Filomeno, Furtado had initially asked the group for 500,000 escudos per kilo. This initial request was not accepted, and, after a certain amount of discussion, the 300,000 “fee” was established.

In the meeting called to establish the “rules of the operation” – a meeting that allegedly took place in Lígia Furtado’s home – Filomeno said that the flight attendant noted that caution had to be taken during flights and at the Sal’s airport’s X-Ray services, but that she would provide a “scheme” to help allow a suitcase containing cocaine to get through checkpoints.

This supposed scheme consisted of recruiting a border service police officer to do the job. The officer in question would be paid 400,000 escudos every time he allowed the illegal merchandise to pass through the checkpoint. According to Zany Filomeno, in her first operation, Furtado transported 10 kilograms of cocaine and was paid 3 million escudos. Filomeno also claimed that her organization had recruited five other police officers and four flight attendants.

Defendant José Jorge, however, said during the trial that 99% of Filomeno’s declarations were nothing more than barefaced lies. José Arlindo Semedo (known by the nickname Zé Pote), charged with five counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, denied having made any sort of “business” proposal to his former girlfriend Zany Filomeno, with whom he has a child.

Zé Pote also claimed not to know flight attendant Lígia Furtado or any of the other individuals supposedly involved in the criminal organization. He did, however, admit to knowing police officer Tigana and José Jorge Gonçalves, two of the other defendants in the case. Zé Pote admitted that he owned a construction company called Semedo e Gonçalves with José Jorge.

The bank transactions used as evidence during the trial revealed very large withdrawals, transfers and purchases of foreign currency, which Zé Pote guaranteed came from the money he had earned as an émigré abroad. He also claimed to have taken out bank loans of 7 million, 10 million and 15 million escudos to finance his business projects.

These explanations, however, apparently failed to convince the Public Ministry, which, according to information gathered by A Semana, has called for heavy sentences of between 15 and 20 years in prison for all of the defendants. In addition, following the reading of the judge’s verdict, the Public Ministry plans to use Cape Verde’s recently-approved money laundering law to confiscate the material and monetary assets of the accused.

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