Liberia: Screening of Jurors in US$100M Cocaine Trial Begins


… As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs interpreters show up in the courtroom 

The screening of roughly 12 jury candidates for the trial of the four persons indicted in connection with the US$100 million cocaine raid last year 2022 has begun.

The jurors' selection process was triggered after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met the court's request for interpreters for two of the accused.

The two are; Larsana Keita, whose name the Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted to the court as the Arabic language interpreter for co-defendant Malam Conte, a Guinea Bissau national; and Tito Abanobi, who is expected to be a Portuguese interpreter for co-defendant Makki Admeh Issam.

Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court ‘C’ has earlier postponed the jury selection exercise after the ministry failed to submit the names of interpreters.

But the ministry shows- up with two interpreters after failing to do so previously.

The case in question grew from the government's seizure of US$100 million worth of cocaine on October 1, 2022, in which one Oliver Zayzay, a Liberian national, and some of his foreign associates were arrested after seeking to purchase what appeared to be a shipping container full of fresh frozen pig feet from a refrigerated storage facility in Monrovia.

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The defendants had initially offered to pay the owners of the container, AJA Group Holdings, the sum of US$200,000 for the entire container, which, at the time, cost less than US$30,000. 

But when the defendants, within less than eight hours, doubled their offer to US$400,000 and, finally, to US$1 million, AJA Group said they were certain that Zayzay and his associates were dealing with a serious case of narcotics trafficking.

The company said they contacted the United States Ambassador, a move that brought both the American and Liberian anti-narcotics law enforcement agents into the picture and caught the suspects red-handed. 

The US$100 million cocaine bust is believed to be the biggest arrest in terms of street value on the African continent so far.