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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

$100m drug verdict saddens U.S.

By Bridgett Milton

United States Ambassador to Liberia Michael A. McCarthy says he is saddened by the acquittal of suspects recently tried for the $100 million cocaine trafficking and human trafficking cases here.

”While I hesitate to second guess any jury and fully admit that I am not privy to all the details of the prosecutions or their defenses, I hope this does not send a signal of weakness in enforcement to international criminal cartels,” Amb. McCarthy said at a press conference Wednesday, 31 May 2023.

Liberian prosecutors lost the court battle in the US$100m drug burst case against defendants Malam Conte, Adulai Djibri Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam, and Oliver A. Zayzay on 18 May 2023.

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

The presiding Judge Blamo Dixon, immediately ordered prosecutors to return money that the Government allegedly seized from the defendants.

The accused faced a criminal trial after their arrest last year for their alleged roles in the US$100m drugs seized by Liberian authorities.

On 1 October, the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) stormed the grounds of SONIT Liberia Inc. in Topoe village along the Japan Freeway.

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The operation followed a tip-off from the United States Government and a huge quantity of raw Cocaine concealed among frozen goods was seized.

Unhappy with the outcome of the trial, the U.S. Envoy told journalists at his Embassy near Monrovia that like many Liberians, including the Minister of Justice, he was saddened to see the acquittal of suspects in both human trafficking and the US$100m drug burst cases.

From an outsider’s perspective, he said it is alarming that conviction could not be obtained in Liberia, even when the evidence seemed so overwhelming.

Amb. McCarthy continued that he is worried about what these developments portend for Liberia’s justice sector, which the United States Government has supported with many millions of dollars over the years in capacity development.

In another development, Amb. McCarthy has classified the recent disruption of Nimba Senator Prince Y. Johnson’s Church service by ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) supporters as nonsense.

Young people from the CDC’s constituent party National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor disrupted the Church service.

Amb. McCarthy reminded political party leaders, civil society organizers, and international dignitaries of the signing of the Farmington River Declaration last month.

While he commended the move, the U.S. Envoy said those signatories made a clear commitment to prevent violence, cooperate with law enforcement agencies, expand voters’ education, and avoid inflammatory language and disinformation.

He said the signatures also committed political leaders and actors to accept the official election results, among many other elements.

Going forward, he said he expects all political parties to avoid a repeat of that ‘nonsense that was witnessed two weeks ago with political disruption of a church service.’

”If your signatures mean anything, we depend on your honor to uphold those high standards invoked in the declaration’,’ Abm. McCarthy said.

He added that the true test of this commitment by political leaders will be the execution of a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful election process over the next 19 weeks.

Additionally, Amb. McCarthy reiterated his support for Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah’s recommendation for the prosecution of Margibi County Health Officials by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to the fullest extent of the law.

His call concerns a case of the appalling alleged kickback scheme of health funding for the people of Margibi County caught on tape and courageously revealed by Liberia’s thriving fourth estate.

McCarthy urged media institutions and integrity organizations to keep politicians of parties accountable for their important declarations and commitments.

”Rather than simply reporting on the horse race, ask politicians the tough questions about their platforms and records, shed light on policy inconsistencies, and remind the public what they stand to gain or lose in the lead up to October,” he said.

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