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House Launches Inquest In US$100 Million Cocaine Case

The plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on National Security to gather from the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Justice the facts and circumstances surrounding the US$100 million drug bust case in Liberia.

In October last year, the joint security apparatus of Liberia in collaboration with its United States’ counterpart arrested US$520 kilograms of raw cocaine valued at US$100 million, the largest drug bust in Liberia up to date.

The drug was smuggled in a container owned by AJA Group Holdings, the largest importer of frozen goods in Liberia. Four people including a Liberian named Oliver Zayzay and three foreigners, Makki Ahmed Issam, Adulai Djalo and Malam Conte were arrested for allegedly attempting to purchase the cocaine, which the government claimed had been smuggled among pig feet from Brazil.

They were charged for money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs, unlicensed importation of controlled drugs, and criminal conspiracy and sent to court. Following a two-month trial at Criminal Court “C”, the jurors handed down a unanimous non-guilty verdict in favor of the four defendants, prompting national and international outcry.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean called the jurors’ verdict a travesty of Justice, and in an unprecedented move, petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the Lower Court’s verdict, but was denied.

However, the Plenary of the House of Representatives, in its Thursday’s sitting, authorized its Committee on National Security to extract more information from the Liberia National Police and the Ministry of Justice concerning the drug case and to find out whether the government is instituting any alternative measure that could lead to finding the actual perpetrators.

The plenary’s decision to mandate its Committee on National Security to establish the alternative measures being pursued into finding the actual perpetrators signifies that the august body is not satisfied with the juror’s verdict, which has been seen by many as a missed opportunity in Liberia’s fight against illicit drugs which is fast destroying a large portion of the youthful population.

Recently, in his monthly press roundtable last week, Amb. McCarthy said: “While I hesitate to second-guess any jury and I 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.

“From an outsider’s perspective it is alarming that convictions could not be obtained in Liberia, even when the evidence seemed so overwhelming. I am also 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.”

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