CHAPTER 1 The Nightmare Begins

If only I knew who they said I was, where they said I had been, those they insisted I had consulted! ... If only I could recognise the names, the dates, the places, the faces! ... How was it that these people knew my name, my address, my family, even my place of birth, yet I could not as much as fathom what they were talking about?... And they wanted me to speak quickly, think quickly, answer quickly - all ten or twelve of them, or were there more of them? Less? They were everywhere in the house - their voices, like splitting glasses, tearing through my pounding head... the sound of doors, furniture, and utensils ripping through my mind. My knees were threatening to give way - right there in front of my family... threatening to buckle under me. But I was not going to let that happen. Not in the presence of my family. All of them, except for the baby, were there, huddled into one corner, terrified, watching! I was not going to crumple! Was not going to allow the terror inside me reduce me into defecating in my chair. I was not going to allow the adrenaline raging through my system to tear open my bowels and send urine cascading down my trembling legs. I had to be a man... had to bear up. So I dug my heels in, pulled up, and held onto my guts that morning inside my house in Amsterdam South East.

I now look back on that day, I look back on that moment when the pounding yanked me out of bed... I remember that hour when the door flew open and the dark figures stormed into the house, sweeping me off the doorway and up against the wall ... I look back and I wonder: What would I have done had I known then what I know now? Would I have run? Climbed up the window and jumped off the three-story apartment? Or would I have remained calm - taken heart because in me was knowledge of what was about to become the legacy of that morning ... the legacy of that which I am about to reveal? I write now because by some extraordinary dispensation I endured those seven and a half months. I write because I now understand the providence of my survival and the improbable probability of what I am about to tell.

As for that December morning in my sitting room in Amsterdam South East, all I can remember thinking about was the pressure in my groin, the commotion inside me, and the dignity that had to be maintained in the presence of my family. My head throbbed and my lips patched with fear –my heartbeats growing more and more erratic. I tried to remember. I wanted badly to remember, to call back to mind when I might have peddled drugs. But try as I did, nothing came to my mind. I had never seen drugs in my life before, never once made contact with heroin or cocaine or people who used or trafficked those things. Drug trafficking and drug traffickers were creations of the TV to me. They only existed in newspapers and the Internet. The strongest substance I had ever taken was black coffee - a lot of which I did take during the days leading to my Microsoft exams in Amsterdam. The coffee would keep me up through the night, even though this generally meant a headache, but up it would keep me burning the night lamp till dawn. This feat was one that the substance coffee would repeat again and again in subsequent years - particularly on those nights when I would stay up leafing through the administration of my various businesses. Yes, it is good for an African man to work hard in the Netherlands. It is good for him to keep his head clear, not only to navigate the anxieties of life often made worse by problems in his home country, but to face the demands of survival in a country he had travelled to not only to survive, but to live. True, I came to the Netherlands not to stay. The Netherlands was only a transit stop for me. At least that was the idea. But against all expectations, I found myself building a business that would turn into a source of employment for others. Suddenly, l was no longer a visitor in the city of Amsterdam. I, an ordinary man with no particular talents, had become an economic asset in the Netherlands.

But as I look now across the canals of Amsterdam, I know that I am no longer an ordinary man; nor ever will be again. Yet all I ever wanted was to be an ordinary man, a simple man, a man who succeeded to carve a life for himself in a strange land... a man who begat a family - a good family; a man who built a business - a good business; a man who lived in simplicity - the simplicity of a workaholic. I had few friends, not because the institution of friendship disinterested me, but because the opportunity for socializing remained limited to a workaholic. In the Netherlands you must pay tax, you must pay bills, you must pay many things... and then you must live. For all this, I worked, and was happy to keep working. Never did it occur to me that one morning, after a long and tiring work day (and a sleepless night) prior, I would be wrenched out of my sleep, handcuffed and driven off into the unfolding of a December morning – leaving behind a dazed and frightened family.

My family did not know what was going on. I did not know what was happening. We had no clue that we were about to embark upon a journey that would take me into the Dutch and German Supreme Courts, into print media, into the homes and taverns of millions of Dutch men and women, and eventually into a rejoinder in 2009 by the then Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Prime Minister J.P. Balkenende (See appendix). I, a man who was as inconsequential as his prospects of ever becoming any more than one of the thousands of struggling immigrants in the Netherlands, had become a national spectacle of sorts.

Kenneth Ehigiene

My name is Kenneth Koseyem Ehigiene. You would never have heard of me, nor known of me... I would have remained no more than a snow flake on the dykes of Holland, a speck of fluffed ice born not in the freezing altitude of the Northern Hemisphere, but sired from the bowels of the ancient

Nigerian city of Benin.
My parents separated before my first birthday. Still I grew up in the warmth of a loving home. Mine was a relatively privileged life, with an educated father and uncles (particularly my Uncle “Brother” Ben Usiagu) who took great care of me. We lived at the time in Lagos; but my father later relocated to Benin City, leaving behind brother Ben who had found employment in Lagos. It was in Benin City that a small but poignant event transpired in my life.

I was nine years old and still in ‘primary five’. If you are nine years old and in ‘primary five’, you do

not venture into the exam halls of ‘primary six’ pupils, and definitely not during the post-primary/pre- secondary-school primary six ‘Common Entrance’ Examination. But that was exactly what happened

in my case. My father registered me for the Common Entrance Exams, and I took it. This Common Entrance Exams stint was supposed to be a test-run for the young son of a technocrat. But ‘test-run’ turned into reality when I passed the exams and suddenly found myself at the threshold of ICC (Immaculate Conception College) boarding secondary school. The principal of ICC, Dr. J.O. Itotoh - a close friend of my father’s - advised my father against sending me to secondary school at that age, proposing instead that my father wait a year before letting me make the full plunge into boarding (secondary) school. My father agreed. One year later, this time ten years old and still clinging to my father’s lapels, I found myself heading for Immaculate Conception College.

ICC became the basis of my formative years. Few Nigerians of a generation younger than my generation will understand life in a boarding school system that includes being beaten and forced to eat food dripping off your head. They will scarce understand how this can happen simply because a school prefect thinks you have disgraced him by not flinching under the lashes of his whip. Few Nigerians in the Nigerian school system today will comprehend the impact of the strict morning wake-up bell ... the shrill of that gong ushering in a day of morning chores, harried breakfasts, general assemblies, rotating classes, dinner, prep school, bunk beds and synchronized sleep hours. Ours was a self-regulatory system ruled by school prefects and disciplinarians. At the age of ten, this was the system I stepped into. For the first few weeks, I sat by the exit of the school and stared at the school gate, crying and wondering why my father was not coming to visit me. Or in fact, why he had sent me to this school. I am not sure if it would have made any difference to my ten-year-old mind had it assimilated the fact that my father was a working single parent, strapped for time and intent on seeing his young son become a man, independent. After a string of visitation days had gone past with a ‘no-show’ from my father, it became clear to me that I was either going to swim or sink.

I survived my first years in ICC, and ended up becoming a school prefect. Boarding-students (for there were Day-students too) crossing into the last year of school were the only students qualified to serve as prefects. The selection rite was the preserve of a conglomerate of outgoing prefects, schoolhouse masters, senior teachers, and the school principal, who would make the choice based on a non-discriminatory, merit-based criterion. What constituted merit was academic prowess and leadership skills (developed in core leadership classes), while the term non-discriminatory took precedence in reference to “the best man wins”. I have no clue how, but somehow I managed to fulfil the necessary criteria and became a prefect. Apparently, the leadership, academic and Christian values that defined the socio-political culture of ICC had moulded the ten year old cry-baby into the teenager I became. These same values would become the foundation of my subsequent tendency to work like a jackass and to abjure chaos of any type. Thus enslaved by my own strict code of conduct, I arrived in the Netherlands in 1990 en route to the US for further studies. But my entry into the Netherlands was contingent upon the directives of my family, rendering the last lap of my journey to the US subject to family resolution. Since no one in my family lived in the US, the debate became whether I should go to the US “with all its reported crime, gang fighting and seeming dangers awaiting a black man there”, or stay and pursue my studies in the Netherlands where my older brother Duncan was living with his family. My brother Duncan opted for the latter. His wife did too. Feedback from Nigeria insisted on the same thing. Since all I wanted was to build my life, make an honourable name for myself and be the man my late father had always wanted me to be, the question of my final destination became secondary. So, with the Netherlands being the family choice, I set myself to becoming a man in the Netherlands.

Studying and simultaneously proving to myself that I could be independent of my brother, however, showed itself to be anything but easy - not least because I could barely speak the language Dutch. It soon became clear that a choice was going to have to be made between work and study. I chose work. Thence, work I did - in meat factories, production companies, factory floors and various other places - scoring names such as KLM (KLM catering) and Sony Records (cassettes department) on my list of employers. It was while I was working for Sony Records that an opportunity to improve my work options opened up for me. The founders of an Amsterdam-based African organisation called Stichting GATE (Gospel From Africa to Europe) were looking for candidates for their Microsoft IT certified course. It was a course designed for Africans working beneath their qualifications. The aim of the organizers was to even out, if only slightly, the disparity between the qualifications of African migrants and the level or type of jobs they were doing. I was a perfect candidate – doing semi-skilled work with a bachelors’ degree in linguistics. I had never studied computer sciences before, never attempted computer engineering or computer programming of any sort before. But fear that I might not be able to cope within this kind of study-program proved too minor an obstacle to stop me from enrolling. Thirteen months into the fifteen months course, I was ready to take the final exam. When the results came, I once again found myself, as in Benin all those years back, an academic spectacle - coming ahead of everyone else in the exams. My entry into IT from a linguistics background had arrived, as had my introduction into entrepreneurship; for, with my IT certification, my cousin Godwin Ikpiha invited me to become a partner in his business. From Godwin’s export and import business, we expanded into Information Technology and telecommunications, and later set up a Photo shop. The businesses grew, branches springing up in Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, London and tentatively Spain. My personal life was not as smooth sailing as my business life – at least not initially. By the creation of my first business, I was a divorced man.

December 2001
Eeftink Office, Amsterdam South East

The life of a single man tasted far more unpalatable to me than the divorce that had left me single. I wanted a home, a wife and the certainty of a family life. My second relationship not only brought me the completeness of a settled life, it also brought me a family. Yet it was not this, nor the birth of my daughter that evoked the first jolt in my psyche. What happened that Friday in my office at Eeftink in Amsterdam South East remains a memory I will always strive to forget. That dreaded December evening in 2001 was in many senses, in its staggering timing, the forerunner of what would follow one year later in 2002. On that December evening in 2001, I was at the office in Eeftink, having just returned from collecting payments from our various calling-card agents in the city. (Godwin and I had developed our own customized prepaid international calling card called ‘ONE TOUCH’, which was doing well across the city). It was about a quarter to six p.m., and I had just settled behind the computer in the inner chamber of the office to update our sales entry in the computer, and to later stack away the load of money I had just collected. Godwin and our employees were in the outer office, attending to customers. Presently, my new phone rang. I picked it up, but could not immediately work its setting as these were new to me. With my attention still on the phone, my mind perceived the door to this inner chamber of the office move. I turned to the door and looked straight into the barrel of a gun.

“I know you know me,” said the man with the gun, “so no tricks.” He was not alone. They were all armed with machetes, guns and/or clubs; and were now pushing their way into the inner chamber. As they did so, all I could feel was the barrel of a gun and the torso of a machete slamming against my head and chest. As both weapons struck again and again against my bleeding head, chest, back and neck, the gang argued back and forth whether to shoot me dead or do something else if I did not give them the keys to our SAFE. My partner Godwin cried out from the outside office that he knew where the key to the safe was. But in the confusion even he could not find the keys. Suddenly, their attention shifted from me to the supplies of goods in the inner room. The bag containing the load of money caught their attention. They began gathering things. But their guns, machetes and clubs got in the way, and they could not take as much as they wanted. Compelled in this manner to abandon the rest of the loot, the gang turned on us and began beating us up. Some twenty-five minutes later, they left us gagged, bound and in a pool of our own blood – everyone, including our employees and customers.

We were later rescued by the police, alerted by Mr Steven Osei the travel agent across our offices, who had heard our cries for help from his Trans Africa Travel office. Three months later, all twelve of the gang members were apprehended – traced down by the IMEI of the newly purchased mobile phone which they had snatched from my hand. The arrest of the men, all of them fellow Nigerians, did not alley my anxiety. I still went about life ravaged by anxiety- constantly anxious about unexpected sounds, activities, or movements

December 2002
Gein, Amsterdam South East

It was in this state of mind that, one year later, on that December 18 day in 2002, the thunderous banging yanked me out of sleep.

I had not only worked late the night before, I had spent hours preparing for the activities of the next day, one of which, incidentally, was a scheduled appearance in court to testify against the twelve Nigerian gang members. The anxiety of that impending occasion was only tempered by the anticipation of other more palatable activities such as the on-going setup of my new business in Spain, arrangements for repairs on my rented house in the nearby city of Almere, my appointment with a real estate agent regarding a new house I wanted to buy in Amsterdam, appointment for a routine medical check-up, and a rendezvous at my gym Henny Plezier amongst others. But then, there was also the pile of bills– which constituted part of the load on my mind the night before. These things were all still playing in my mind when that loud banging broke into my room.

Fumbling wildly in the bedroom as the banging and screaming reverberated through the house, I kept collided with wall, furniture and object. Then I was out of the room, through the hallway and at the door!

Through the view-hole in the front door, I saw two white faces; and then it dawned on me: Something had happened to one of the shops! Or was it the office?! Where was Godwin? What had happened? To him? To the office? To the shop? Which shop? But we were now secured, had taken all precautions after the robbery ... the alarms, yes that was it, that had to be it. One of the alarms had gone off and alerted the police! But why were they here? Banging like this? Was it fire? Had someone set the place on fire? Who? Short circuit?... my hands, why were they not grabbing the lock, they were trembling, fumbling with the door chain, unable to pull back the latches ... difficult! So difficult! Everything was suddenly so difficult. But who opened the door? They or I? One moment the door was locked, the next it was open and I was hurtling senselessly backwards. One, two, three, four, how many of them, it was hard to tell! They were rushing in, storming into the house, and I was against the wall, flat up against the wall. Kenneth Ehigiene ... Yes! Yes! That is my name. Kenneth Ehigiene. What is happening? What has happened? To Godwin? To the shop? Which shop? Drugs?! In the shop? Which shop? The office? What are they talking about?

Godwin is a good man. We both work hard. Nobody uses drugs, nobody’s ever brought drugs into the office. But where? Where’s the drugs? Where did they find drugs? Perhaps I am not thinking correctly, perhaps they are not saying any of this. They are running their hands all over me now, frisking me. My wrists are in handcuffs. There are many men in police uniform and plain clothes in the house, opening doors, barking at my family. This is all happening. This is all a fact. I cannot be imagining any of it. They have seen drugs! Where? in the office? The shop? Which shop? Firearms! Did they say weapons? In my house?

“Mr Ehigiene...” Again, they are speaking into my head, they know my name, “Do you have any weapons here in your house?”I have not answered them, have I? I don’t think I have. But I want to, I want to answer them ... they are frisking me, talking about weapons, pinning me against the wall, handcuffing my wrists, telling me, “Mr Kenneth Koseyem Ehigiene. You are under arrest for drugs trafficking.” Drugs! Where? How? I did try to move my head from the wall. I tried not to gurgle. I think I said, “Officer, I am a business man, you are mistaken. I am not a drugs dealer.” They heaved me off the wall, back into the sitting room where my family, shivering, was now gathered in one corner. They - my mother, my cousin, my wife and 2-year-old Kiesha - were all there, except for 4- month-old Whitney who was still in her cot. “Silence!” I heard a police officer bark at them, “Keep silent all of you!” But they were all gawking at me as the policemen propelled me to a seat. I stared back at them, the sight of them in that bundle tearing at my very guts. I wanted them out of there ... out, so I could think.

“Mr Ehigiene,” the man speaking to me, I could now see, was in plain clothes. He had a sheet of paper in his hand; and his eyes were on it as he spoke, “You were born in Nigeria, in Igbanke. Your date of birth is February 9 1968. You are a Nigerian and you possess the Nigerian nationality. You...” “I also possess the Dutch nationality!” I spurted out abruptly, confused terror spiralling into panic, “I have a Nigerian passport, officer, but I also have a Dutch passport.” “Interesting,” he murmured; and then proceeded, “Mr Ehigiene, we are not going to search your house now. We shall first wait for the magistrate to come. After he has explained the procedure to you, we will begin the search. But you can already tell us yourself where the drugs are.” The presence of my family in the room conditioned the tone of my voice. I answered him, “Officer, I have no drugs in this house. I have no weapons. I have nothing. I am not a drugs dealer. I am a business man. Why will I do drugs! My businesses are much bigger than drugs trafficking, officer! You can search my house if you want. You can look wherever you want. But you have to tell me what this is all about? What is going on here?” “We have been watching you for a long time now, Mr Ehigiene.” He informed me, “When the magistrate comes, we will search your house. But it will be easier for you to tell us where the drugs are hidden.” When was the magistrate then going to come? I had a court case to attend. After a full year of waiting, these policemen could not deny me the chance of finally confronting those twelve men in court. But who were these armed police officers? They could not possibly be the men who had rescued Godwin and me, and the others one year ago, could they? Why would they accuse me of drug trafficking? Why would they burst into my house like this?

The big man hovering over me did not know what I was talking about when I asked him. He said they were not the police of a year ago. Who then were they? Where did they come from? The city headquarters, he said, and they were here to arrest me for charges of international drug trafficking. But I was not a drugs dealer, I told him. There were no drugs in my house! “Then you have nothing to worry about, Mr Ehigiene,” he replied, “within two or three hours after the magistrate comes, you will be a free man. ... If we find no drugs.”Two or three hours?! I would never be able to make it to the court on

time to join my business partner Godwin and our company lawyer Mr Voorn! Fear turned to anger, then frustration, then helplessness, and finally tampered resignation. If I waited without incidence, the nightmare would end. Yes, I could wait three hours more. The magistrate, later referred to as Mr J. Thomas, came. He read my rights; then asked me if I understood what he had read. I said yes. The police officer to my right asked the man hovering over me if they could take me now to the police station. He said yes. But what about searching my house and letting me go? I looked sharply up at the man. Had he not said that once the magistrate came they would search my house and let me go? Was that not the plan?

No! That was not the plan. I was wrong. Apparently, I was wrong about many things. I was even wrong about how much my infant daughter, Kiesha, observed and understood about the events of that day; for two years after my release, she asked me why the men had heaved me up so, and taken me to the room. She seemed to have taken particular note of them twisting my arms to my back and handcuffing me again once I got dressed up. What she did not remember was that just before the policemen bound my hands to my back again, they saw the safe of the house and demanded the key to it. The police opened the safe and found no drugs, weapons or money. But there was money in the briefcase that I had brought back with me from my recent business trip to Spain. As for what happened to that €3600 in the suitcase, I would come to discover that about that too I had been wrong. The only thing about which I clearly was not wrong was the terror in the eyes of my family as they watched the armed policemen march me out of the house.

Downstairs, at the parking lot, I received the shock of my life. Police were everywhere and crime scene tape was all over the place, cordoning the entrance to the apartment building. There were police vehicles positioned on all exit and entry points of the apartment. Suddenly I became conscious of my hurriedly assembled attire: a black trouser, a dark shirt and a long black mantle. A veritable gangster I must have looked.

The policemen flanking me on both sides marched me to one of the vehicles. They opened the back door, forced me head down into the vehicle, and got in themselves, sandwiching me between them. Two other police officers took the driver and front passenger seats. The car took off. And that was another thing about which I was wrong. Instead of taking directly to the road, the vehicle began zigzagging on foot and bicycle paths, en route to the motorway.

CHAPTER 8 The Reality?

At the beginning of March, I began getting worried. Mr Schultz had not contacted me. Neither had any of his promises come to pass. I called Mr Schultz and complained about this to him. He acknowledged responsibility for not having contacted me, and proceeded to assure me that all was not as bad as I thought. He enumerated what he had done, and what the outcome of these activities was.

Amongst the things he told me about was a letter that he had written to the German Lower Court, strongly objecting to and criticising the investigation. He related to me how the authorities responded to him by overruling his objections on the grounds that my sister-in-law (family) could not have made a mistake. The case was now in the German Court of Appeal, he concluded. About the image-expert for the photo comparisons, no suitable expert had been found yet, he informed me, but he was working on it. On the brighter side, however, said Mr Schultz, he was now in possession of the originals of the head shots. That was news I absolutely wanted to hear. Mr Schultz then added that it was to his great regret to say that what all this meant was that I was still going to face the March 18 trial in Holland, since there was no likelihood of the German high court hearing his appeal before March 18.

Exasperated by this last piece of communiqué, and beginning to feel the old anxiety creep back, I asked Mr Schultz if he could come to the hearing of the 18th with the original photographs. He said he could. I asked if he could send to us a copy of his letter of objections so that we could translate it into Dutch and use as evidence during the trial. He said that he would do. My family and I were again thrown into a frenzy of searching for material evidence. If I was not on the phone urging them to keep searching, I would be in the prison library or in my cell preparing my defence statement .One particular morsel of international extradition law drove me hardest: The fact that if we could produce even one piece of evidence on my innocence, no Dutch court would order my extradition to Germany.

A few days before the trial, my Dutch lawyer Mr Voorn came to see me. We discussed the case at length, and he showed me the evidence he had amassed. It was impressive, ranging from personal details to Henny Plezier’s log-book; from court session dates to exam dates as well as to letters from institutions confirming visits, bills, and a whole lot more. In total, there were 51 pieces of evidence. With these 51 pieces of evidence on my mind, I left my cell that March 18 morning for court. The hope within me was tentative, but unmistakable; for even my lawyer had declared that a catastrophe would have to happen to wash away the proof of my innocence. As the detention van rolled on its way to the courthouse, I could even dare to occasionally feel gladness and to reflect on meeting my family again. Only one concern tampered the mood: Would Mr Schultz arrive in the court on time for the trial? And would he have with him our trump card ... the final clincher: ‘the photographs’? There were other detainees in the underground cell when our group filed in. I recognised one of them instantly. He was a Nigerian boy who occasioned my shop. His shock at seeing me was so total that he literally leapt to his feet, “What are you doing here?” he gasped aloud. I told him that I was there on extradition charges. And then I explained everything to him. When I stopped talking, he gazed down at the copies of headshots. And then he muttered, “But this is not you.” I said, “Yes, it is not me.” He was silent for a moment. Then he looked at me. “Didn ́t any of the witnesses mention the scar on the side your face?” I touched the scars on my face, and realised that I had not thought of it myself. The guy in Photo number 6 was without scars. Then again the deep scars that a childhood accident had caused on my face were not very visible in the old passport photograph used in the photo file. Still, an eye looking to compare faces would have detected those scars. I said to the boy, “No, or they would have reported it.” The boy was again silent, then he frowned and said, “But this is obvious.” “Yes it is!” I acknowledged with gladness, and explained to him that a German lawyer was working to get an expert to prove that very point. The picture evidence, I added, was going to be used here today.

That seemed to bode well with the boy, and he agreed totally with it. It was now my turn to ask him why he was there. He said it was drugs related, but went no further to tell me whether he was innocent or not, and I did not ask. We then continued to discuss other matters, waiting for our respective names to be called out. He was called first. Almost immediately, they called out my name. With him in front of me, we

marched in a file, respectively flanked on either side by security guards. As we walked, I noticed that the guards were ushering us to the same court room. The oddness of this instantly escaped my mind when suddenly I saw sitting beside my lawyer Mr Schultz! My heart leapt with joy. There was another gentleman seated beside them. This man, I discovered shortly thereafter, was the lawyer of the Nigerian boy. The judges were not yet present, but the prosecutor was already there. The sight of her hit me smack in the face: Ms Lilian Ang. Almost immediately I saw my family in a booth upstairs seated behind a thick glass, waving to me. Regina was there too beside my mother, my wife, my brother, and my business partner. There were others there as well. Overwhelmed by the presence of that little crowd up there, I sat down. The Nigerian boy took his seat too, and an interpreter occupied the stool between us. To the side of the Nigerian boy was his lawyer and to my left were my Dutch and German lawyers. A court guard asked everyone to stand up: The judges were coming in. Five people, led by, and yes this was a minor shocker too - led by the same presiding judge during my second bail hearing: Ms Sigmund-Bonga.

We sat down when the judges sat down; and Ms Sigmund- Bonga opened the trial, at once beginning to read the case against me .The more she read, the more my confusion cleared up. She was not reading a case against me. She was reading a case against the Nigerian boy ... and me – us both. According to the words coming from the judge, the Nigerian boy was the ringleader of a drugs cartel and I was his second in command. Our escapades were highly organised and generally executed by the two of us in tandem. Our activities took place in such places, in such manner and in such instances. The prosecutor, Ms Lilian Ang, took over. But hardly had she uttered more than a few sentences than the Nigerian boy ́s lawyer was on his feet, declaring that the documentation to which she was referring was not in his possession. He approached the bench as he spoke, pointing to a page in the file in his hand. Apparently he was right. After studying the page in the file, the judge admitted that the said document was not in his possession. The case could not proceed under the circumstance.

What did that mean?! I turned to my lawyers. Was I going back to jail? Was not the case to be heard and closed today?

The presiding judge’s voice calling for a recess interrupted my thoughts. The guards propelled me back to the underground cell. How long I sat there in that underground cell before they came back for me, I cannot tell. But a guard did come, and asked me to follow him back to the courtroom. This time, the judges were already seated. Everybody was still there as before, except for the Nigerian boy and his lawyer. My heartbeat began pounding. The drumming in my chest stopped immediately the judge announced that the case was proceeding - considering that Mr Schultz had flown that morning from Germany just for the case. We were back on track! I turned quickly to Mr Schultz and asked if he had with him the photographs. He answered by handing the file with the photographs to me. I studied the faces, closed the file and replaced it on the table in front of us. Now the judge could have my full attention. She was already reading the case against me, starting with details of my personal life: name, date of birth, place of birth, day of entry into the Netherlands, past and present home addresses, marital status, past marital status, legal status in the Netherlands, etc, etc. At the close of this itinerary, she demanded to know why I was still in possession of my Nigerian passport. I explained to her that no one had told me that receipt of a Dutch passport meant relinquishing my Nigerian passport. To that, she muttered, “Strange!” and placed the paper in her hand down. She picked up another document. This was the document with the charges against me. I heard how on four occasions I travelled to Turkey to hand over kilos of heroin to couriers heading to Switzerland through Italy. I heard that on April 8 2000, I delivered a bag containing 5 kilos of heroin to a lady in a hotel in the Turkish city of Antalya – called Hotel Delphin. Between May 11 and May 15 2002, I gave about 4 kilos of heroin to another lady to take to Italy; from June 1 through to June 5, I carried out the same activities - this time in cohort with a certain Martins. Then in August of the same year, I affected the same activities, repeating the coordinated dance of a well-orchestrated chain of criminal activities - initiated by my gang. This gang, acting under my leadership, would buy tickets for courier girls, give the girls pocket monies and send them off on a trip at the end of which other gang members would pick up and continue with the criminal baton. It was on one such rendezvous that one of the couriers took a photograph of me, later to be identified as me. “But the person in the photograph is not me, your honour!” I interrupted the judge. She looked from my lawyer to me. I shut my mouth up and sat back down. It was my lawyer’s turn to address the court. He approached the judges’ bench, handed them what I already understood was the defence plea and the translated letter of objection from Mr Schultz, and came back to our table and began speaking. Rather than launch into a counter-argument, my lawyer simply started stating a list of facts: My life of service in the Netherlands; his years representing me and my company; my family life ... etc. After this, he took on the charges.

“On April 8, 2000,” he articulated, “the date which according to the charges my client was in Turkey, my client, Mr Ehigiene, was in my office here in Amsterdam, discussing his unjust termination from a former employment. Not long after this, we were in the city of Haarlem to finalise the case on his unjust termination. Mr Ehigiene’s perforated passport which was valid at the time shows no travel dates corresponding to the period stated in the charges. Please also see dates of visits to his gym, and the period he sat his for his Microsoft examination here in Amsterdam ... See also the letter of objection written by Lawyer Schultz to the German court, criticizing the manner in which the investigation had been conducted in Germany... the many mistakes made. Lawyer Schultz is here to elaborate on each point.” My lawyer glanced at Mr Schultz as he said this. “Your honour,” he said, “it is not possible that my client could have been in Turkey, Italy or Switzerland on any of these dates. Here are ...” and my lawyer began picking out, one by one, the remainder of the 51 pieces of evidence, giving ample room after each pronouncement for effect. When he stopped speaking and sat down, I saw that he had omitted to make mention of the photographs. I wanted to ask him about it, but then realised that there was ... had to be a strategic reason for it. The judge thanked him and asked the prosecutor to respond.

The prosecutor made no expansive introductions, delivered no preparatory texts or attempted any legal niceties. The woman went straight on the attack, plucking out each point my lawyer had made as though sorting maggots from an open sore. As for our April 8 defence, declared the woman, it was pure bogus that my lawyer would use the necessity of my presence in his office as an alibi, when he could just as well have deliberated the said litigation in his office without my presence. As for the court-hearing in Haarlem, could not my lawyer have made the trip there alone in my absence? How was the necessity of my presence in that Haarlem court occasion for inference to an alibi? Concerning the Henny Plezier’s log-book entry, was it not possible that I could have given my pass to someone else to take to the gym on that day so as to cover my tracks? And my Microsoft exams, wasn’t it conceivable that I could have taken the exams and thereafter travelled to Turkey? As for my perforated passport, would not a man with criminal intent travel to Turkey with false documents? Why was the court succumbing to give ear to a man whose first marriage to a Dutch woman could well have been a contractual marriage? Why was the court wasting valuable time trying to determine whether this type of person was innocent merely because of presumed evidence, when everything else indicated that here was a criminal? It was the court’s duty to send this man to Germany to face prosecution. ... Ms Lilian Ang did not stop there. She went on speaking. But I had heard enough to get blindingly angry. When later she sat down and the judge asked me to speak, I could think of nothing more than her violent attack on the integrity of both my first marriage and my character. So I narrated my childhood days through to my adult years, my early days in the Netherlands, my marriage, my divorce, and my work life. The judge stopped me. I was not, she ordered, here tell my life story but to prove my innocence. I tendered my excuses and sought to recoup my thoughts. Pieces of the plans that I had worked out in my cell began coming back, and in a better state of clarity, I resumed speaking. This time, I moved fluidly from the much spoken about April 8th to my Microsoft exams; from visits to the gym to trips by my doctor; from the Haarlem hearing to other events in the course of this period. I described not only the proceedings in the court in Haarlem, but the physical set up of the court on the day of the hearing. I told the listening courtroom where my lawyer and I had sat that day in the Haarlem court, where my former manager and his company lawyer had seated themselves; what attire my lawyer and I had donned that day; and the number of judges who had presided over the case. I also described various events in my family, business and casual life in the course of the days under discussion - making sure to deliver details that no one without first-hand knowledge could possibly produce. “I have never trafficked drugs in my life,” I told the court, “I have never seen illicit drugs in my life. The man who has been doing drugs is in this photograph.” I held photograph number 6 up, “This is the man whose photograph was taken in Turkey, the man they say is me. I am 1.79 but the man in this picture is said to have a height of 2 metres. In fact my brother ...” (I pointed up at the pew behind the thick glass where my brother and the others sat watching and listening) “who is taller than me would fit the description of this man’s height better than I. But assuming that height is not an important yard stick, what about these other differences between the man in photograph number 6 and me? The scar,” I started, now shifting away from my chair to approach the bench, “the shape of our faces, the earrings... Take a look your honour,” I approached the desk, “please take a look at this picture and tell me if this man in this photograph is me.” The judge looked past the photograph.

“Please your honour,” I said, stretching the picture up to her, “please take a look. This is why I am here. The Germans say I am this man. Look for yourself, please look for yourself, your honour, if this man is me.” The judge stared straight past me... through me. I could have been speaking to a stone wall. I broke into tears, sobbing and begging the judge to please take a look at the picture. The judge asked for recess, and I was taken back to the underground cell. Mr Schultz approached the bench. That is what I later heard. He went to the prosecutor with the file containing the original photographs to show her the photographic evidence of my innocence. The prosecutor, I heard, shook her head impatiently and gestured vehemently that he take the photographs out of her sight. Mr Schultz tried again, but she gestured even more vehemently. Mr Schultz returned to his seat. The judges came back after their recess and the court guard ushered me back to the court room. When I sat down, the judge began reading her decision: Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the case, bail was not going to be granted Mr Kenneth Ehigiene while he awaited judgement. In two weeks’ time, the court would make its final decision on the case and Mr Ehigiene would receive an affidavit of that verdict. My lawyer audibly caught his breath and silence descended like a storm upon my watching family and friends. Mr Schultz swept his file off the table and exploded beneath his breath, “This is a sophisticated joke”. I re-entered the prison late that night, climbed into bed in the same clothes, and slept with my shoes on. For the next two weeks I spoke to no one, called no one – not my lawyer, not Regina, not my family, not anyone. In this silence, I awaited the final judgement. It did not come. Not after two weeks. Then days began to go by. Perhaps they had postponed the verdict and forgotten to tell me. I phoned my lawyer. Mr Voorn picked up the phone and when he heard my voice, he said over the mouth piece. “I am afraid, Kenneth, we lost the case.”