South Africa
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Customs officials jailed after accomplice who swallowed 89 balls of cocaine turns state witness

During his trial, Osigwe told the court that a Nigerian man in Brazil had given him the drugs and bought him a ticket to South Africa.

The Alexandra Magistrate’s Court has sentenced Sydney Bilankulu, 56, Courdel Khoza, 30, and Thabo Dikgale, 31, to 10 years and a further five years in prison on charges of dealing in drugs, possession of drugs and defeating the ends of justice.

The three join Oscar Osigwe, who was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in 2017. He entered into a plea and sentence agreement with the state so that he would testify against his co-accused.

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According to NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane, Osigwe arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport in April 2016 from Sao Paulo, Brazil, possessing 89 plastic bullets of cocaine he had swallowed.

On arrival, while waiting in the queue, he was told to stand aside by two SARS customs officials, Khoza and Dikgale.

During the search, Dikgale informed Osigwe that they had been waiting for him.

The three then went to a hotel where his SIM card was replaced with a new one that would be used to communicate with him after he had excreted the drugs.

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They instructed him where to drop off the bag with the 89 balls of cocaine.


The successful passage turned rough after Sergeant Nathan Govender from the South African Police Service (SAPS) stationed at the airport received an anonymous tip-off about a man from Sao Paulo with cocaine balls he had swallowed.

Govender gathered a team that went to the hotel where Osigwe had checked in.

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“On arrival, they questioned Osigwe, who agreed that he had excreted 71 balls of the drugs, and 18 were still inside his stomach,” said Mjonondwane.

Cocaine drop-off

“Osigwe received a call from the accused to move to the drop-off point, where the team followed him. He handed the bag of cocaine to Bilankulu, who was with Dikgale and Khoza, and they were all arrested.”

During his trial, Osigwe told the court that a Nigerian man in Brazil had given him the drugs and bought him a ticket to South Africa.

The Nigerian man had also told him there would be people at the airport waiting for him and that his identity had already been shared with the people.

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In arguing for a harsh sentence, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Jacob Serepo, argued that the accused facilitated the importation of drugs when their mandate as law enforcement officers was to curb the scourge of drug dealing.