Liberia: Chief Security at RIA Caught Transporting Suspicious Boxes, Suspected to Contain Drugs, Through an Unauthorized Gate From the Tarmac

MONROVIA – Samuel Freeman, the Security Manager at Roberts International Airport, is currently under investigation for his alleged involvement in an attempt to transport several boxes suspected of containing contraband directly from the tarmac, using an unauthorized gate at the airport.

By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]

When contacted by FrontPageAfrica, the management of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) confirmed the interception of the boxes by officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia assigned at the airport.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that the boxes were being transported in a minibus and was escorted by Mr. Freeman who informed the AFL officers that the consignment belonged to President George Weah’s Chief of Protocol, Ms. Nora Finda Bundo. However, Ms. Bundo, vehemently denied knowledge of the boxes when she was contacted by the management of the airport.

The confiscated boxes have been turned over to the Customs Department of the Liberia Revenue Authority.

The Communications Manager at the RIA, Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh, confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Customs is in possession of the suspicious boxes, but categorically denied knowledge of any link to drugs.

Mr. Singbe said, “To the best of our knowledge, up to this moment, there has been no drug-related incident. However, I can confirm that the Liberia Revenue Authority, through Customs, is in possession of several suspicious boxes. These boxes have aroused suspicion due to attempts made to smuggle them out of the airport via an unauthorized gate, directly from the tarmac (airport apron). The Armed Forces of Liberia, stationed at the airport, intervened and subsequently handed these boxes over to Customs.

“At present, the contents of these boxes remain unknown, and they are under tight joint security protection. To ensure the integrity of the evidential chain of custody, joint security forces are diligently working to bring the consignee and ensure the presence of all relevant parties before opening the boxes.

Investigations into the attempted smuggling are ongoing, and we anticipate that further details will emerge shortly.”

The boxes are expected to be opened on Monday.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that diplomatic missions in Liberia have raised concerns regarding the suspicious boxes and the manner in which they were being clandestinely transported from the airport. Consequently, they have notified the airport management, the Liberia Revenue Authority, and the joint security agencies of their intention to closely monitor the investigative process and its eventual outcome.

Meanwhile, sources within the airport have disclosed to FrontPageAfrica that this incident is not an isolated occurrence. They assert that the Security Manager at the airport has previously taken cargo directly from the tarmac, purportedly on behalf of a high-ranking government official.

Last September, the joint security intercepted US$100 million worth of cocaine concealed in a frozen food container. The cartel reportedly infiltrated the Maersk shipping line and had the cocaine packaged with frozen goods. Like most countries in the West African subregion, Liberia is a major transit point for illicit drugs from South America to Europe or the United States of America.

The seizure by the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) and the Liberia National Police was made possible through a tip-off by the American Embassy in Monrovia.

Four suspects directly, two of whom were arrested on the scene were tried, but the court found them not guilty of illegal possession and importation of illicit drugs.

Upon their acquittal, former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy said he was saddened to see the acquittal of suspects in the US$100 million cocaine trafficking case.

During his monthly press roundtable in January, Ambassador McCarthy expressed his concerns, stating, “While I’m cautious about making judgments about jury decisions, and I acknowledge that I don’t have access to all the case details or defense arguments, I sincerely hope that this doesn’t convey a perception of weakened enforcement against international criminal cartels.”

“From an outsider’s viewpoint, it is disconcerting that convictions could not be secured in Liberia, especially when the evidence appeared overwhelmingly compelling. Additionally, I am apprehensive about what these developments might signify for Liberia’s justice system, which has received substantial support from the United States Government in terms of capacity development over the years.”

Ambassador McCarthy’s remarks come in the aftermath of the Ministry of Justice’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Supreme Court to halt Criminal Court ‘C’ from enforcing the jurors’ verdict in favor of defendants Malam Conte, Adulai Djibril Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam, and Oliver A. Zayzay through a writ of prohibition.

In July, President Weah enacted a significant piece of legislation known as the Control Drug and Substance Act, colloquially referred to as the Drug Law. This momentous duty was carried out by the President on July 12th, shortly after the Drug Bill had been diligently reviewed and debated by the National Legislature over several months.

The primary objective of this new law is to exercise authority over, restrict, manage, curtail, or eliminate the illicit import and export of narcotic substances, as well as the widespread misuse, abuse, and proliferation of such substances within the Republic’s jurisdiction.

Notably, the legislation includes provisions for penalties associated with specific violations, such as the unauthorized and unlicensed importation of controlled drugs or substances into the country. For instance, the law explicitly defines an offense where an individual intentionally or knowingly imports controlled drugs or substances into Liberia without the requisite license from the Minister.

Furthermore, it delineates the seriousness of this offense, categorizing it as a first-degree felony, subject to imprisonment for a maximum term of ten to twenty years, as per the guidelines established in sections 50.5 and 50.6 of the Penal Code 1.

Crucially, the law emphasizes that such an offense is considered grave and non-bailable. Additionally, the Act specifies that when the offense involves drugs or substances listed in Schedules II, III, and IV of the Law and is linked to trafficking purposes, the offender is liable for a second-degree felony and may face imprisonment for a period ranging from five to ten years, in accordance with sections 50.5 and 50.6 of the Penal Law of Liberia.

Regarding bail matters, the Act stipulates that only cash equivalent to the bond’s value or a cash deposit in a bank, substantiated by a bank certificate, may be accepted.

The legislation also addresses the unlicensed manufacture of controlled drugs or substances, identifying it as an offense when an individual engages in the production or preparation of any drugs or substances listed in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or precursor or essential chemicals listed in Table I and Table II of the Act without proper licensing. Such an offender, according to the law, may be charged with a first-degree felony or, if utilized differently, a second-degree felony, carrying potential imprisonment terms of ten to twenty years, or as prescribed in Section 50.5 and 50.6 of the Penal Law of Liberia.

The passage and subsequent enactment of this law underscore President Weah’s steadfast commitment to combat illegal drug trade and substance abuse, addressing a menace that has long afflicted Liberian society and robbed countless young Liberians of a brighter future.


Sign up to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Sign up today to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site