Home Economy Infamous Verdict! …GOL, JNB Slam Drugs Trial Judgment …As Four Non-Guilty Men ‘Escape’ In Tin-Air

Infamous Verdict! …GOL, JNB Slam Drugs Trial Judgment …As Four Non-Guilty Men ‘Escape’ In Tin-Air

by News Manager

By: H. Richard Fallah

MONROVIA: The Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), has described as “appalling” the not guilty verdict of Criminal Court “A” of the first judicial Circuit of Montserrado County at the Temple of Justice presided over by Judge A. Blamo Dixon in the US$100-million drug bust trial.

Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean Jr., says the verdict clearly undermines the collective efforts of Liberia and its international coalition to clamp down on the illegal transit of illicit drugs, using West Africa as the conduit to trade narcotics internationally from Latin America and elsewhere.

He said for Liberia to play its role effectively in this international fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes associated with illicit drug transportation and sale, all three branches of the government must take this fight as a collective responsibility and not just the Executive.

“If the Executive through the Joint Security of the country, working in concert with their international counterparts, is ramping up the strife to apprehend and bring to book illicit drug traffickers and money launderers, our drug laws must compliment such efforts through appropriate legislations, and the courts must be ready to act in conformity with the laws and gravity of the breach of our laws,” Liberia’s Attorney General asserted.

The Justice Minister said it becomes worrisome and shameful as in the case of the recent verdict, for the courts to be setting hardcore criminals free when the evidence is overwhelming in the face of international security collaboration that tracked and brought the perpetrators of this heinous crime before the law.

“There was US$100-million worth of drug stacked in a container that landed in Monrovia and the accused were caught red-handed attempting to take ownership of the container holding the illicit drug by attempting to bribe the businessman housing the container, yet the court through the empaneled 12-man jury said such brazen evidence didn’t warrant a guilty verdict. What more can the joint security and the Justice Ministry do to convince the court that the law was broken,” he retorted.

Minister Dean said what is even more concerning and despicable is the fact that these kinds of verdicts only lend credence to the widely held international and local perception that the judiciary-namely the Courts are inherently compromised and it has again ignited the lingering debate of whether the judicial system should continue with the age-old jury-trial process when there are always talks about the unethical practice of jury tampering during such trials.

The Justice Minister said the ruling has also brought Liberia to international ridicule. He said even more lampooning is the fact that hours after the verdict and the release of the defendants by Judge A. Blamo Dixon, the four men have now absconded.

He wondered why the men would flee or hide if they truly believed that they had committed no criminal offence. This is sickening, Minister Dean said.

“ The court ordered the return of the two-hundred thousand United States dollars seized by the joint security during the arrest of the four men, so why are they not around to receive their money, if they know they have nothing to run from,” the Attorney General Dean questioned.

Meanwhile, the joint security is now continuing to mount its search for the four men who continue to remain at large.

In October last year, a huge consignment of 520-kilograms drugs with a street value of about US$100 million was seized by the Joint Security of Liberia through an international security collaboration involving the American and Brazilian Authorities.

For several years, West Africa has been a transit zone for narcotic drugs produced in Latin America destined for Europe and other parts of the world.

In a related development, former Vice President, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, (JNB), has expressed frustration over disturbing media reports of a not-guilty verdict, exonerating all four key defendants in the importation of a staggering US$100 million worth of drugs or 520kg of cocaine into Liberia by jurors at Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple Justice in Monrovia.

Making the statement on his official Facebook page Saturday, May 20, 2023, the Presidential hopeful said that the news is not only shocking and disappointing, but it is completely embarrassing to the image of the Liberian Nation.

Ambassador Boakai noted that the action of the court presents a huge setback to Liberia`s international reputation under the George Manneh Weah administration and sadly portrays a perception that Liberia is now fast becoming a haven for drug traffickers and a point of transit or final destination in the West African region under the ex-soccer star.

“Even more troubling is a BBC report that the key suspects in the drug case may have fled the country immediately after the verdict,” JNB noted.
The former ruling Unity Party Standard-bearer has called on the Weah-led administration to find the culprits of the importation of these harmful substances and bring them to account.
“Anything short of this would signal connivance,” he warned.

Ambassador Boakai: “Fellow Liberians, this national embarrassment must further strengthen our collective resolve to save this country at the polls in October; to redeem and rescue Liberia.”

The Unity Party political leader has, at the same time, promised that upon assuming office in January 2024, he will vigorously clamp down on drug traffickers attempting to use any inch of Liberia`s soil and his government will pursue their accomplices.

The former Vice President’s statement comes days after Liberian prosecutors have lost a court battle in a US$100m drug burst case against defendants Malam Conte, Adulai Djibri Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam, and Oliver A. Zayzay.

A jury panel at the Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia Thursday, 18, May, 2023, handed down the unanimous verdict, acquitting the four accused men, a blow to Liberia’s fight against illicit drugs trafficking.

The acquittal came after 11 of the 12 jurors found the men not guilty of all charges, including money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs, unlicensed importation of controlled drugs, and criminal conspiracy.

According to the jury, Makki Ahmed Issam, Adulai Djalo, Oliver Zayzay, and Malam Conte had no knowledge of the cocaine smuggling operation, as claimed by the government.
The 520-kilogram haul of the illicit substance had been seized by authorities in 2022 among containers that TRH Trading had imported from Brazil.

According to TRH Trading, which is a subsidiary of AJA Group Holdings, the accused had allegedly offered to pay US$200,000 for a single container that contained the cocaine, which at the time was costing less than US$30,000.

The accused, according to the company, later doubled their offer to US$400,000 within less than eight hours, and finally to US$1 million, a situation they claimed raised a red flag, leading them to contact the United States Ambassador, who then passed the information to Liberian security officials.
These claims were repeated in court by the government and its key witness, Samuel Nimely (aka PI), the General Manager of TRH Trading, and formed part of its core argument during the case.

However, the jury found that the case against the men lacked conclusive evidence linking them to the cocaine shipment, dealing a blow to President George Weah’s administration, which had hoped to use a guilty verdict to boost its claims of a serious crackdown on drug abuse in the country.
The acquittal also called into question the investigation conducted by the government security apparatus, which led to the accused being charged with numerous crimes, including money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs, unlicensed importation of controlled drugs, and criminal conspiracy.
If the accused had been found guilty, they could have faced a prison sentence of several years up to life imprisonment in accordance with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2014.

In Liberia, drug trafficking is considered a serious offense, and specific penalties and prison terms vary depending on various factors, such as the type and quantity of drugs involved, the defendant’s criminal history, and the circumstances of the case.
The case experienced several delays before coming to a conclusion, and at one point, the prosecution hastily ended its presentation of evidence after failing to secure the testimonies of three out of its eight witnesses.
This unexpected turn of events came after the prosecution team had boasted of having indisputable evidence to convict the accused of importing the largest quantity of drugs in the history of the country.
The development played into the hands of the accused lawyers, who argued that the prosecution’s failure to produce its additional witnesses, despite requesting extensions on multiple occasions, implied a lack of sufficient evidence to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Of the eight witnesses, only five appeared in court, including TRH Trading and the chief investigator of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), who headed the panel that charged the defendants in 2022.
The defense lawyers had Conte testified on behalf of his accused colleagues. Conte, a Guinea-Bissau national who is fluent in Arabic, accused the government and TRH Trading of making up allegations in order to cover up the latter, which is one of the richest local companies, shipping the cocaine.
This allegation was backed by the President of the Customs Brokers Association, James Hinneh, who accused TRH Trading of illegally importing goods in the country.
According to Hinneh, TRH Trading makes imports without having an import permit declaration or an import notification form. These documents are key security instruments for shipment in the freight industry.

In October 2022, Liberia was at the height of world news for the wrong reason after a joint operation comprising the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) arrested a 31-year-old Bissau – Guinean national identify as Malam Conte, involvement into One Hundred million (100,000.000.00) street values of cocaine.
Experts say the value of the One Hundred million (100,000.000.00) street values is 25% of the Liberian government budget and probably 15% of the Liberian GDP, which at the time sparked controversy across Liberia.
The arrest, according to officials of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), was made in plain view following well-verified intelligence from the U.S. government, at about 1:00 PM Saturday, October 1, 2022.
According to details of the operations, LDEA-NSA joint operatives stormed the SONIT Liberia Inc. compound and seized from them a huge quantity of raw Cocaine concealed among frozen goods owned by SONIT Inc.
SONIT Incorporated is a frozen food company located in Topoe Village along the Japanese Free Way. However, the company has distanced it selves from the drugs trade and has since collaborated with the LDEA to ensure the arrest.
During the joint security preliminary investigation, suspect Conte said he was asked by his international partners to follow the consignment and ensure it reaches the final destination. However, he did not know whether Liberia was the final destination.
It was also established that suspect Malam arrived in the country with two other accomplices who checked in at the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia. They later moved over to the Boulevard Palace Hotel in the same area where the LDEA picked up additional information leading towards the syndicate.
Drugs addiction in Liberia is becoming alarming everyday as many continue to call for joint efforts, aimed at eradicating and reducing the consumption of such a dangerous substance that is fast leading to a serious threat against the youthful generation of Liberia.

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