Africa

Tanzania boxers jailed in Mauritius for drug-smuggling

Jailed Tanzanian boxers Image copyright Yasine Mohabuth
Image caption The boxers apologised for getting involved in the illicit trade

Four Tanzanian boxers have been sentenced to 15 years in prison in Mauritius after pleading guilty to heroin-smuggling charges.

The boxers told a court they smuggled the heroin into Mauritius because they needed money to support their families.

They were on the Indian Ocean island to compete in an amateur boxing tournament when they were arrested in 2008.

The judge said the time they had spent in prison since then would be knocked off their 15-year sentence.

'Gravity of crime'

Case Ramadhani Fills, Nathanael Elia Charles, Ally Rajabu Msengwa and Petro Charles Mtagwa were seen as promising young boxers when they were arrested in June 2008 during a raid on a hotel in the town of Quatre Bornes, about 15km (nine miles) from the capital, Port Louis, correspondents say.

The boxers had flown in from Tanzania to take part in the African Cup of Boxing, the main amateur boxing tournament on the continent.

The Mauritius Anti-Drug Smuggling Unit had put them under surveillance after receiving intelligence that the four were carrying drugs, reports the BBC's Yasine Mohabuth from Port Louis.

They were charged with smuggling about 4kg (8lb 8oz) of heroin, he says.

"We apologise to the Mauritian nation," the boxers said, before the sentences were handed down.

"We are poor and have family commitments; children and old parents who depend on us."

"With this transaction, we would have received 4,000 euros ($5,200; £3,400)."

Judge Marie Joseph said he took into account that the boxers had "family commitments" and had "readily confessed".

They had also helped in the arrest of their "local contact", he said.

Nevertheless, the gravity of the crime could not be "minimised when one considers the considerable harm the quantity of drugs involved could have caused if they had found their way in the country", the judge added.

He said that he was sentencing each of them to 15 years "penal servitude".

"[But] 1,722 days shall be deducted, the time they have spent on remand."

More on this story

Around the BBC