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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

RIA drug bust overshadows 2023 campaigns

The confiscation of boxes containing illicit drugs over the weekend at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County appears to have overshadowed the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections.

It all started when a contingent of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) detailed at the airport arrested and placed under investigation RIA’s Security Manager Samuel Freeman for his alleged attempt to smuggle several cartoons of suspected contraband substance directly from the tarmac into a minivan using an unauthorized exit at the airport.

The arrest follows denials and claims that the content in the boxes were mere Moringa leaves flooded the local media including social media calling on the Liberian Government to come clean.

On Tuesday, 12 September, which marked six weeks into a tense campaign, the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the consignment of boxes intercepted contained illicit drug methamphetamine.

In its press statement signed by Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, government confirmed that the consignment of boxes it intercepted containing herbal plants – packaged and in natural form – at the Roberts International Airport reveals a presence of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

Government noted that as part of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency’s investigation, which included scientific examination, samples tested revealed the presence of the illicit drug, which is banned under the rules of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes, UNODC. 

Government stated in its statement that the Minister of Justice had with immediate effect ordered the Joint Security of Liberia, as well as the LDEA, LNP and the NSA, to expand their investigations on the importation of illegal drugs with the aim of bringing to justice all those involved.

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However, the confirmation by Government that the substance contained in boxes were illicit drugs, the Collaborating Political Party (CPP) took a swipe at the George Weah regime, while condemning the continuous smuggling of illicit drugs here.

In its press statement titled “Weah Makes Liberia Lawless And Unsafe: Drug Smuggling On The Rise, the National Campaign Committee to Elect Alexander B. Cummings President of Liberia said the confirmation by Government that the so-called moringa leaves being smuggled under the facilitation of the head of security of RIA points the smuggling ring directly to the Office of President.

The CPP said disturbing details raise serious questions about the security at Liberia’s ports of entry, as well as the collusion of senior government officials in smuggling and peddling of dangerous narcotics in the country.

“The latest drug smuggling through the RIA reminds of the $100M cocaine smuggled into Liberia through the Freeport of Monrovia, for which a lame, conspiratorial, and collusive investigation and prosecution saw the perpetrators walk out of jail and away from Liberia with no consequences for the commission of an international crime, on the watch of the Weah-led Government.

Liberians are also reminded about the illegal importation of arms and ammunition through the same Freeport of Monrovia. Again, a lame investigation and conspiratorial cover-up led to no arrests, no prosecution, and accordingly no conviction for international arms smuggling into the country.

To date, amidst reports of the training and arming of private militias and ex-combatants by some government officials, no public accounting exists for the smuggled arms and ammunition,” CPP said.

The party said Liberia has become increasingly lawless under President Weah’s six-year rule. It asserted that officials with responsibility to ensure the integrity of the country’s borders are being caught in schemes and collusion to aid and abet the breaking of not just Liberian laws but the commission of international crimes.

“Kush” and other dangerous drugs are addicting and killing our children. Liberia is being robbed of its future by poisoning the minds of our young people,” the CPP said.

Sometime last year, cocaine valued at US100 million was discovered in a TRH Trading Company, importers of frozen food warehouse.

Few months later in February this year, cocaine worth US37 Million was discovered in another container belonging to TRH Trading Company.

Officials of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) through its director general, Michael Zeyhou, said the drug valued at US$37 million was linked to an unidentified Kenya national.

In July this year, the Government of Liberia passed a new drug law known as the Control and Substance Act to strengthen existing laws. Under the new law, an illegal possession of drugs or trafficking of contraband substances is a non-bailable offense.

The new law seeks to restrict, manage, curtail, or eliminate the import or export of illicit drugs in the country. It named narcotic substances and their widespread misuse and abuse as well as the proliferation of contraband substances in the country.

The law indicates in parts that an individual would have committed an offense if he or she intentionally or knowingly imports or traffics controlled drugs or substances in Liberia.

It also described as serious offense, a first-degree felony, which is subject to a maximum imprisonment term of 10 to twenty years for serious offenders.

It remains to be seen how far this investigation will go to bring perpetrators to book as members of the opposition community will not be adding this to their laundry list of reasons why they think Liberians should not reelect incumbent President Weah.

A speedy probe and arrest of culprits could be a litmus test of the government’s resolve to fight illicit drug trafficking. -writes Othello B. Garblah

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