NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s High Court acquitted a British aristocrat on Thursday of smuggling cocaine in a shipment of sugar, ending a high-profile case that captured public interest in how the justice system would treat the scion of a prominent family.
One hundred kilos of cocaine, said to be worth around $6 million, were seized from a shipping container owned by sugar trader Jack Marrian in the Kenyan port of Mombasa in July 2016. Marrian’s colleague Roy Mwanthi was also charged.
Marrian, grandson of a Scottish earl, has always maintained that they were framed. The prosecution applied to terminate the case for lack of evidence, but six weeks ago a magistrate in a lower court refused to drop the charges.
“The court was in essence directing a prosecution against accused persons against the wish of the prosecution, without a complainant and a prosecutor,” High Court Judge Luka Kimaru wrote in Thursday’s ruling dismissing the case.
“Hugely relieved that after so long the prosecution has had the courage to do the right thing,” Marrian told Reuters via a message on WhatsApp. The case against Mwanthi was also dropped.
During the trial the defense team presented a letter from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stating that Marrian, 33, could have had no knowledge that the drugs were stashed in a shipment which was en route from Brazil to Uganda.
The grandson of the sixth Earl of Cawdor, Marrian grew up in Kenya, where his grandfather was a minister just after the former British colony became independent in 1963.
Mombasa is a favored port of entry for drug traffickers in east Africa, where the smuggling of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants is on the rise, according to the United Nations.
Corruption amongst law enforcement and customs officials make the region a convenient transit point for drug trafficking to the rest of the continent, Europe, and north America.
(This story corrects that Marrian family served in Kenyan government post independence, in seventh paragraph)
Editing by Katharine Houreld and Peter Graff