Home Economy The W/Africa Drugs War …Liberia, Others Targeted

The W/Africa Drugs War …Liberia, Others Targeted

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By Our Staff

MONROVIA: Long before state security agencies including the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), and the National Security Agency (NSA), received a tip-off from the United States (US) Embassy in Monrovia regarding the reported US$100 million worth of illicit drugs which were concealed in a container and brought to Monrovia, some top Liberia journalists were already following the activities of Oliver Zayzay, a Liberian national who was said to have booked three rooms at the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia.

Zayzay booked the rooms for individuals purported to be his friends but were later suspected to be illicit drugs importers.
Previously, Oliver Zayzay was known as a regular ‘parlor boy’ for some staffers of the United Nations (UN) at the Freeport in Monrovia. Later on, Zayzay began buying and building luxury housing units and acquiring other properties in Marshall City, Marbigi County, Republic of Liberia.
On account of this development, investigation indicates that Zayzay was considered a person of interest in connection to the US$100 million drugs bust but he reportedly fled into hiding.

His Facebook profile lists him as CEO of Sky River Security and VIP Protection Services and Oliver Car Rental Service.

The others, including Gustavo Henrique, a Brazilian; Adulai Djibril, a Portuguese; and Malam Conte, from Guinea Bissau, were suspected by investigators to be part of an advanced team from the Diasporas that reportedly tracked the drugs to its destination in Liberia.

After a brief stay at Royal, the trio later moved to Boulevard Hotel in the same Sinkor vicinity, where they were accommodated until the illicit drugs bust in Topoe Village, along the Japan Freeway in October, 2022.

A fourth suspect, then, a Lebanese national, identified as Issam Makki, who lives in Liberia then, was also picked up in Sierra Leone, near the Liberian border, while re4portedly escaping, sources familiar with security investigation said.
Makki, according to investigators, was detected to be a key part of the illicit drugs cartel, allegedly tasked with negotiating with local businesses to buy their container that also contained then, frozen goods arrive at the Freeport of Monrovia.

Malam, 31, was arrested in plain view following a well-coordinated intelligence exchanges between the American and Liberian authorities
Some international media outlets reported, then, customs data on cocaine seizures and that Brazilian drugs gangs were integral players, who were feeding Europe’s cocaine market, valued at more than 9 billion Euros ($10.15 billion).
Malam, according to investigative sources, tried to purchase some of the frozen goods in said container, unknowing to the merchants who, may not have had any idea that cocaine drugs had been concealed in the container prior to its arrival at the Freeport of Monrovia.

At the time, Malam also wanted to purchase few of the boxes of frozen goods which were in the container for US$200,000.

Custom officers knowledgeable about the sale of frozen foods asserted that the cost of each box of frozen foods, at the time, was between US$15-20. Sources said Malam’s US$200,000 proposal for few boxes sparked apprehension and concerns, thus triggering more interest of US security investigators and embassy officials, who were said to have informed the NSA and the DEA.

Later, a joint security team comprising members of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA), went to SONIT Liberia Inc. compound which is situated in Topoe Village Community and swiftly seized a huge quantity of raw cocaine drugs that were said to have been concealed among frozen goods, owned by SONIT Inc.

But, according to sources familiar with the security probe, the company categorically distanced itself from the drugs importation incident during the preliminary investigation and collaborated with state security investigators at the time. The valued of the confiscated drug was put at whopping US$100 million.

Following the arrest, sources said, suspect Conte admitted to having connection with the consignment and iterated that he had arrived in the country about two weeks ago to await the consignment.
During the preliminary investigation at the time, suspect Conte reportedly told investigators that he was asked by his international partners to follow the consignment and ensure that it reaches the destination.

However, according to sources familiar with the probe, then, he did not give the names of his partners and that not also say whether Liberia was the final destination of the container.

Interestingly, during the prosecution of the US$100m drugs case, the accused persons were declared not guilty by a Liberian court, although circumstances relating to the importation of the drugs, to date, remain uncleared.

In the 2022, anti-narcotic authorities in The Gambia seized nearly three tons of cocaine in Banjul, the political Capital. That seizure was Gambia’s biggest in its recent history.

Some 2.9 tons of cocaine stuffed in 118 bags were shipped from the Port of Guayaquil in Ecuador, through Algeciras in Spain, via Maersk Line Shipping Company.

Different from the Liberia’s drugs bust, wherein the cocaine was inserted among frozen goods, the bags of the shipment in The Gambia was disguised as industrial salt.

In that situation, Police arrested a Gambian national, identified then, as Sherif Njie, whose name was used as the contact person for the shipment.
Anti-narcotic agents said at the time, the shipment belonged to Banta Keita, a French national of Gambian descent who residing in a Gambian affluent neighborhood of Fajara, some 18 minute-drive from Banjul. The confiscated drugs had a street value of $88 million.
In Nigeria, in 2022, anti-narcotics agency, JUNE, seized cocaine worth $278 million, making the biggest single drug bust in Nigeria’s modern history.

The 1.8 tons of cocaine were found in a warehouse in Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, according to the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency of that country.

In that incident, four people, including three Nigerians and a Jamaican national were nabbed, and they were tagged as international drug mafias.
Like Liberia, Gambia and Nigeria, have been used as a transit route for South American hard drugs bound for Europe and other destinations.

Guinea Bissau, where some of the suspects in Liberia hailed from, was the subject of its largest ever drug bust in September 2020 when more than 20 vehicles, among them US$90,000 worth of wine and porridge found in a warehouse, and, of course, 1.8 tons of cocaine hidden in sacks of rice.

Some observers believe that some diplomats of Latin American countries might have links with the drug cartels that are operating in their respective countries.
More than that, the Liberian government, at the time, admitted that it lost track of four men tried in court and exonerated after the seizure of US$100 million worth of cocaine, a judgment that shocked even the then, Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean.
According to some social media commentators at the time, a criminal court in Monrovia gained upper hand in the war against drugs when, on May 18, 2023, a Liberian court announced a NOT GUILTY verdict in favor of a Liberian, a Bissau-Guinean, a Portuguese and a Lebanese arrested in connection with the seizure, in October 2022, of 520 kilos of cocaine with an estimated value of US$100 million.

The drugs were, according to security authorities, in a container from Brazil.
The successful bust of the drugs, was said to have been the result of cooperation with the United States and Brazil, and it represented one of the most important catches ever made in Liberia.

However, the judgment by a court jury was all the more surprising as the court ordered the return to the case winners US$200,000 seized during the operation when they were considered suspects.
The case highlighted the place of West Africa Coasts as it relates to illicit drugs trafficking routes from South America, to Europe in particular. The judgment also raised questions about the credibility and integrity of Liberia’s criminal justice system, especially taking into consideration the reaction of Liberia Minister of Justice then, Frank Musa Dean.
Other commentators said the court’s decision “made Liberia an international laughingstock.

” Former Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean Jr said then in a statement. It “clearly undermines the collective efforts of Liberia and its international allies to combat the illegal transit of illicit drugs, and the use of West Africa as a conduit for international trade from Latin America and by the way.”
The four suspects, photographed in prison uniform with their lawyers after the trial and released, later disappeared in thin air with their whereabouts to date, remain unknown.
“They can’t be found. We don’t know where they are. They fled,” former Information Minister, Ledgerhood Rennie, told AFP, confirming the then justice minister’s remarks.
The defendants had attracted attention by trying to buy the container from the businessman who owned it, the then, justice minister, reported. Their acquittal has sown indignation or perplexity on social networks.
The case “accredits the widespread perception locally and abroad of an inherent compromise in justice and the courts,” admitted the then former Minister of Justice.
It also prompted questions about the use of popular juries, “while there is constant talk of the immoral practice of bribing the jury during such trials,” he then wrote.
The State Department, in its report on human rights in Liberia in 2022, noted that judges “are prone to influence attempts and engaged in corruption”.
“Lawyers and prosecutors reportedly instructed defendants to pay bribes to obtain favorable rulings from judges, prosecutors and jurors,” says U.S. Foreign Affairs, a lead partner of Liberia.

Lebanese Drug Mafias Regrouped
Investigation conducted by The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT has gathered that causes and factors for the raging infighting involving some top officials of the Liberian Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) are deeper than the what is fast spreading in certain quarters of the country.

The investigation established that a scheme has been planned at the LDEA aimed at perpetuating misunderstanding and confusion among its officials, and create an atmosphere of disintegration that may distract the agency from focusing on the full implementation of its statutory mandate, which is also in line with the incumbent President’s flagship national development agenda, styled: ARREST.

According to a highly placed, well-connected and authoritative security source, the prevailing atmosphere of disorder at the LDEA is being fueled and remotely controlled by a top Asian drugs tycoon who is believed to have been connected to the infamous US$100 million drugs which were shipped to Liberia in 2022, during which court trial indicated that nobody was found liable.

It is also established that the Asian drugs mafia, believed to be a Lebanese millionaire was allegedly protected by the recent past administration as regard the US$100 million drugs shipment to Liberia, as it related to full disclosure in the importation of the drugs.

Side-track investigation by this paper also found out that in the center of the raging dispute is the Lebanese drugs tycoon, who during previous investigation should have been invited as a person of interest and/or a principal suspect but was left off the hook in the infamous US$100 million drugs case.

The drugs were discovered at the TRH Trading Corporation, a conglomeration of AJA Group that rented warehouse facilities which are situated along the Japanese Freeway in Monrovia on Saturday, October 1, 2022.

The Lebanese Businessman, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was practically linked to the US$100 million drug but was left off the hook by the former government, sources familiar with previous investigation hinted.

It is also gathered that the long-time drug lord has been using other businesses to shield his alleged criminal activities in Liberia. The reports say the tycoon made some undisclosed gestures to the new top officers at the LDEA, as a way of influencing them to protect his business interest and turn a blind eye to his purported clandestine operations in Liberia.

The rejection of this offer is alleged to have triggered the ongoing bad blood among LDEA Director General Abraham S. Kromah and his two deputies, Col. Gbawou Kowou and Col. Hassan Fadiga.

The drug mafia is said to be fighting to banish the LDEA suspended boss to gain control of the LDEA.

Other security sources hinted this paper that the fight that went viral over the existence of a zombie drug in the country was just a tip of the deep-rooted sentiments among officials of the agency.

On Monday, 3 June 2024, Col. Kromah and Col. Fadiga reportedly engaged in a fight following their disagreement about the existence of a narcotic substance called ZOMBIE.

Social media was inundated with reports of altercation between the two top officers at the LDEA.

The tension erupted between the senior law enforcement officials within the LDEA facility in Fiamah, Sinkor, after both men shared varying views about the ZOMBIE drugs.

The conflict was said to have started after Col. Fadiga allegedly rubbished the existence of the ZOMBIE drugs in Liberia.

However, the Liberia National Police (LNP) had to intervene to calm the situation between the two senior officers at the LDEA.

According to Mr. Fadiga, LDEA officers have already investigated and found out that there are no ZOMBIE drugs found in Liberia.

Following the altercation, Col. Fadiga used social media to attempt to clarify that he did not brandish any weapon, contrary to Col. Kromah’s claim.

Howbeit, following hours of the tense conflict at the LDEA central office, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai suspended the three top Directors at the Agency and ordered an immediate investigation into the ongoing bitter disputes among the men who have been trusted to battle the huge influx of illicit drugs into this West African Nation.

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