"Liberia Is Not a Safe Haven for Drug Traffickers”
—Justice Minister Warns; as DEA provides more update on the largest drug bust in Liberian history.
As investigations continue into the arrest of US$100 million worth of raw cocaine in the country, Justice Minister and Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Jr., has warned that Liberia will not be a safe haven for drug traffickers, whether as a point of transit or final destination.
Minister Dean, who spoke on Monday at a joint press conference held at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office in Sinkor, lauded the United States government, through its Embassy in Liberia and its Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement, for the tremendous support that the country continues to receive in the fight against drug trafficking and other transnational crimes.
“We want to be very clear that Liberia will not be a safe haven for drug traffickers, whether as a point of transit or final destination,” Minister Dean declared.
The Justice Minister’s warning comes in the wake of the arrest of a Guinea-Bissauan national identified as Malam Conte, 31, by the DEA and National Security Agency (NSA) in connection with a reported US$100 million worth of cocaine placed in a container bound for Monrovia.
The report also established that Malam attempted to buy some of the frozen products in the cargo while the merchants were unaware that cocaine had been hidden within the container before it arrived at the port of Monrovia.
Additionally, Malam offered to spend as much as two hundred thousand US dollars on a few boxes of frozen goods in a container that cost between US$15.00 and US$20.00 a box, raising a red flag and triggering the interest of US investigators and embassy officials, who alerted the NSA and the DEA.
The report further said that, at about 1:00 PM, officers of the LDEA stormed the SONIT Liberia Inc. compound and seized from there a huge quantity of raw cocaine concealed among frozen goods owned by SONIT Inc.
However, Minister Dean told the press conference that those arrested will face the full weight of the Liberian law.
According to him, the joint security seized the matter and they have declared the premises of SONIT Liberia Incorporated, a frozen warehouse located in Topoe’s Village along the Japanese Highway, a crime scene.
Also speaking, the DEA Director General, Marcus D. Zehyoue, disclosed that the information posted on the DEA’s social media page or whatever platform is true and they have since forwarded the information to several media institutions across the country.
Zehyoue, however, said that as per the nature of the arrest and the condition under which the search was conducted, they couldn’t conclude the entire search but hoped to do that by every means possible.
He said in addition to the information posted about the “alleged accomplices to suspect Malam Conte”, the intelligence dragnet has successfully arrested a Lebanese national identified as Issam Mekki.
According to him, Mekki was arrested across the Bo-Waterside on the Sierra Leone border while attempting to escape the country.
Zehyou further said that Mekki was ordered to be brought back to Monrovia with immediate effect.
While providing more information on the seized cocaine, the DEA chief stated that one of the accomplices, Gustavo Henrique, fled the country on Saturday evening.
“This morning,” Zehyoue said, “I have with immediate effect commissioned my investigation department to begin a full-scale investigation into the arrest, to include all those who may have connections to the reported syndicates, whether directly or indirectly.”
In addition, he said the government, through the DEA, is taking every step possible to ensure that the crime scene remains a priority and that they are able to reach out to every source necessary to aid the investigation to a conclusion.
Zehyoue further vowed that they will leave no stone unturned and that they will ensure that all those involved face the full weight of the law.
“We are also working closely with our international counterparts to ensure we gather sufficient information leading towards extended links surrounding the criminal conspiracy,” he added.
However, Zehyoue said, as the search continues and as the investigations proceed, he urged the media to remain patient and depend on the DEA for any further information regarding the arrest.
The joint press conference was also attended by the Commissioner of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Robert Budy and Deputy NSA Director General for Administration, Sam Siryon.
‘Largest drug bust in Liberian history’
Meanwhile, The United States Government has congratulated “the swift action by the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Security Agency which resulted in the interdiction of a shipment of over 520 kilograms of cocaine, worth US$100 million, and the arrest of two accused drug traffickers,” Conte and Mekki over the weekend.
“This is a result of ongoing investigations around the world and close coordination between national security services,” the Embassy said. “The success of this operation is the direct result of excellent communication between law enforcement agencies around the world, including Brazil, the United States, and Liberia, among others.
“Even before the arrest of murderer and narcotics kingpin Paul Calder Le Roux in September 2012 by Liberian authorities, increasing numbers of criminals and syndicates underestimating Liberia’s law enforcement capabilities have found themselves in handcuffs for formal prosecution and lengthy jail sentences in Liberia.
“The United States Government salutes the dedication of Liberia’s security services and their success this past weekend on the largest drug bust in Liberian history!”