Liberia: US$100m Cocaine Case Finally Begins


With machine translator accepted 

The trial of four people accused of being part of a US$100 million cocaine smuggling operation began in Criminal Court ‘C’ on Thursday, March 9, with the acceptance of the machine translation system.

Among the accused were Malam Conte, a Guinea-Bissau national who is fluent in Arabic and Makki Admeh Issam, a Portuguese, the key figure in the case.

Larsana Keita was nominated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help interpret the Arabic language while Tito Abanobi was for Portuguese. They were however rejected by the defendants on grounds that the two translators were not fluent in the above languages. This then led to the introduction of machine translation.

The testing of the machine translation was carried out in the presence of the court, defense, and prosecution through headphones. However, the trial was adjourned to March 14, to allow the court to deal with the issues surrounding the rejected translators.

The case grew from the government's seizure of US$100 million worth of cocaine in 2022, during  which time, a Liberian named Oliver Zayzay 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.

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.

larThe 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.