The Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has confirmed the seizure of what they describe as “sophisticated illicit drug manufacturing equipment” from a Nigerian national at the Freeport of Monrovia.
The item was seized during a recent raid by DEA officers at the port as part of the Agency’s sustained clampdown on the use of illicit substances in Liberia.
DEA Director Anthony Souh made the disclosure Wednesday at the agency’s head offices in Fiamah, Sinkor. During Wednesday’s press conference, Director Souh put on display the machine and a pack of molding papers known as Rizla.
He said the items were confiscated from a Nigerian national. Souh reiterated the commitment of the agency to relentlessly expose those involved in trading in illicit drugs in the country.
The arrest of the equipment, Director Souh said, “Poses serious challenges to the agency because instead of importing illicit drugs, those in the illegal trade now intend to manufacture illegal substances in the country.”
He cautioned the media to follow up the cases the DEA has sent to court, “because, when we sent these cases to court, we became just witnesses for prosecution.”
“On October 2, 2015, a company called Wisdom Enterprise, owned by one Damian Obi, a Nigerian national, and located in Caldwell Bridge, Logan Town, Bushrod Island, imported into Liberia through the Freeport of Monrovia, a 20 foot container- MRSU-0105780 of assorted goods from the Republic of China,”
Director Souh told reporters at the press conference.
He said the Ministry of Commerce Import Permit Declaration (IPD) and the Customs Single Administrative Document (Customs Import Entry) in the hands of the DEA, revealed 24 different items, including three pieces of so-called water pump, among others, which were manifested and declared.
However, during the customs routine examination of the entire consignment, the three machines declared as water pumps were not water pumps, “but some form of filter with all kinds of devices which constitute False Declaration, an offense under the Customs Law of Liberia,” Director Souh said.
The DEA Director also said that during the discovery, Wisdom Enterprise was made to pay a fine of L$200,000 and an additional Customs Duty in the amount of US$3,215.17, adding, “This transaction took place before DEA officers were recently assigned to the Freeport of Monrovia.”
It was also disclosed that on October 26, while loading the goods from the container onto a truck after DEA had taken assignment at the port, DEA officers discovered that the three so-called water pumps or water filters were clandestine laboratory equipment for manufacturing illicit drugs.
The equipment has an inscription, which reads: “Commercially manufactured hash such as marijuana, water and lee collection devices” and the initials “RPS 1.”
“These machines can also be used to convert marijuana to hashish or hash. They also have the capacity to mix different chemicals through heating into other forms of illicit drugs,” Mr. Souh said.
According to him, the machines can also separate the marijuana plant’s materials from its resin, emphasizing that upon recognition of these machines, the DEA Commander at the Freeport began to question the importer about the usage of the machines and the operational manual, “but the importer reportedly decided to beg and allegedly offered an initial amount of US$500 to keep everything secret until they reached the suspect’s business center on Caldwell Road where they would negotiate.”
However, due to the serious nature of the operation, the assigned DEA Commander reported the case along with the US$500 inducement and seized one of the machines loaded on a pick-up as two of the machines had reportedly been taken to the suspect’s warehouse the previous day, said Director Souh.
“The situation,” he said, “reportedly prompted the Commander and his men on duty to request a Writ of Search and Seizure on the premises of the importer and his business center to retrieve the remaining two machines, but upon reaching the warehouse, the importer had apparently received a tip-off and moved the two machines to an unknown location.”
Director Souh also indicated: “To date, the importer has yet to give the Liberia DEA investigators the operational manual of the machines he falsely declared to customs authority as water pumps.”
He further said the DEA’s search of the importer’s business center through court authority also discovered a warehouse full of rizla, “a king size wrapping paper for molding marijuana and other forms of contraband (illicit drugs).”
“This size of rizla is banned by the entire European Union countries because it is illicit paraphernalia for controlled drug and psychotropic substances. Under the controlled Drug and Substance Act of Liberia, unlicensed importation, possession of manufacturing equipment is felony of the first degree as provided for in Section 14.106,” Director Souh said.
He also revealed that during their search, DEA discovered that the suspect had 340 cartoons of rizla in his warehouse.
Director Souh then used the opportunity to commend the DEA Freeport Detachment for a job well done, reaffirming the dedication and commitment of the agency in pursuing drug traffickers and their accomplices in Liberia. At the same time he encouraged those in charge of the nation’s court system to ensure that those involved in promoting the use of illicit drugs in the country are prosecuted once they are caught “so as to make Liberia a drug free nation.”
Meanwhile, suspect Obi has maintained that the machine confiscated is a water pump and denied that there were three pieces imported, even though the customs officer present at the DEA head offices, Sam Ganyou, said he was on the scene when the consignment arrived and he took part in examining the shipment. He confirmed that there were three machines.
Suspect Obi also refrained from disclosing what the initials, RPS1 identified on the confiscated machine mean, but sources indicated the initials represent a popular entertainment center in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.