MONROVIA: The government of Liberia is making efforts through diplomatic means to address the case involving two officials of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) who were convicted recently in South Korea.
“From the side of the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have met some Korean officials including their Ambassador to see if there could be a diplomatic resolution of the matter,” Maritime Commissioner Eugene Lenn Nagbe disclosed.
In September 2022, it can be recalled that the two officials of the Liberian Maritime Authority, while on official duty at the Green House Gas (GHG) SMART Practical Training and Study, were arrested in Busan, South Korea on allegation of rape.
The two officials are Mr. Moses Owen Brown who serves as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IOM) and Mr. Daniel Tarr the Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection at LiMA.
Making the disclosure recently on state radio, Commissioner Nagbe said the two maritime officials were found guilty by the court in Busan, South Korea but the lawyer of the two defendants filed an appeal and that the appeal process is currently ongoing.
Both Brown and Tar earlier contested their arrest, claiming that they were framed by the alleged victim (a teenager) and termed their arrest as an act of racism.
However, on Wednesday, April 5, 2023, LiMA said in a statement that it has been informed by Pureum Law Office, the Korean law firm hired by the Government of Liberia to represent Mr. Browne and Tarr in their sexual assault case, that at the scheduled verdict hearing, the Court in Busan, Korea, found both Browne and Tarr guilty of sexual assault.
LiMA said following this conviction, the Court in Busan has consequently sentenced both Mr. Brown and Tarr to serve prison terms of nine years each.
The Maritime office affirmed that the pair were charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and joint illegal confinement by the office of the prosecutor, Busan, South Korea, adding, “These charges of the two Liberian officials stemmed out of an incident which occurred in the evening hours of September 22, 2022 in the Port City of Busan, South Korea, while representing Liberia at the IMO training seminar.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Nagbe revealed that the attempt of settling the matter diplomatically won’t take full swing until the appeal process is over on grounds that the judicial system of South Korea doesn’t allow any intervention into cases that are before the court.
“Like in Liberia, the Korean Gov’t can’t intervene into a judicial matter while it is still in court, so the fact that an appeal have been filed, they have to wait for the conclusion of the appeal process for us to foster diplomatic engagement and process, I went to Korea myself and witness a portion of the process and I just want to say that it is an unfortunate situation all over,” he stated.
The Commissioner lamented that LIMA as a registry has been affected by the saga, terming the situation as something unfortunate and embarrassing to the institution.
When quizzed as to whether the two officials were still in the employ of LIMA, Commissioner Nagbe said the two officials were on official duty and they’re all Liberian diplomats so if they suspend them, they will lose their diplomatic status and will affect their standing in Korea.
Against this backdrop, Commissioner Nagbe maintained that the immediate families of both officials are still at LiMA property in London and that they are still getting some compensation, stressing that such compensation will continue until a resolution of the matter is reached.
Also, Commissioner Nagbe revealed that LiMA invited four family members of the two officials (Two each) to travel to Korea as a means of providing support to their husbands and children.
“We have given them an offer to meet with their husbands and children as a means of having an interaction but the case is still ongoing,” Commissioner Nagbe concluded.