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Crime & PunishmentGeneralLiberia news

Who imported RIA drugs?

-Fake documents spread, as LRA handover narcotics to LDEA

Conflicting documents purported to be pointing to the real importer of the recently seized boxes of narcotics at the Roberts International Airport have begun spreading on social media.

In one of the documents published by Spoon FM, the bill of lading carries a name suggesting being that of President George Weah’s Chief of Protocol but with the names spelled wrongly, prompting many to describe Spoon’s document as fake.

On the said document Finda whose full name is Nora Finda Bondoo, was spelled as just Finda Bondo, with a single “o”.

The second document has Steven Daniels as the consignee of the said narcotics shipment which is now the subject of investigation.

On Thursday, 14 September, there were media reports which suggested that law enforcement authorities had placed Mr. Danniels and RIA’s Security Manager Samuel Freeman under investigation as the two suspects in the narcotics importation.

Mr. Freeman has denied any link to the drug importation claiming in a press conference that he was not even on the scene when said consignment arrived a week ago. He also denied admitting to AFL officers assigned at the airport that the consignment was for Madam Bondoo.

The latest drug bust comes on the heels of a US$100 million drug bust which ended in a failed trial.

The cocaine valued at US100 million was discovered in a TRH Trading Company, importers of frozen food warehouse on October 1, 2022, following a tipoff.

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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 traffic 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.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening the Liberian Revenue Authority announced that it had turned over the 10 boxes of narcotics drugs over to the LDEA for further investigation.

In the statement, LRA said it had officially transferred custody of ten boxes of narcotic drugs to the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA).

The LDEA is the to the statutory authority on drug enforcement.

The handover follows last week’s seizure of illicit substances by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) officers stationed at the Roberts International Airport (RIA).

The AFL officers seized and handed over to Customs authorities the consignment, allegedly being smuggled through an unauthorized gate.

A joint security inspection team initially suspected the content to be Moringa tea based on its packaging, but laboratory testing conducted by the LDEA conclusively revealed that all ten boxes contained narcotic drugs.

In line with standard operating procedures on border management coordination, Customs (LRA) on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, officially turned over the consignment of narcotics to the LDEA for further investigation.

Speaking during the handover ceremony, Officer Edmond Reed, of the Customs Anti-Smuggling and Investigations Unit (ASIU), underscored the Customs dedication to its role in facilitating lawful trade, collecting revenue, and ensuring the protection of borders and society. 

He expressed appreciation for the partnership and collaboration between Customs and other security agencies and expressed hope for further improvement of border management coordination.

Receiving the consignment on behalf of the LDEA, Trokon Jackson, Commander for the RIA Detail, extended his gratitude to Customs and the joint security for the partnership demonstrated in the interest of the country.

The joint security remains committed to collaborative efforts to uphold the rule of law, combat illicit activities, and protect the well-being of the nation and its citizens.-writes Othello B. Garblah

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