The premises of Criminal Court ‘C’ last Friday was a scene of disbelief when a jury returned a verdict that dropped three of the four charges brought against Armstrong Tony Campbell, accused of transporting seven stolen vehicles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA — where he lived for over 10 years — to Liberia.
The drama started when the jurors came from their six-hour deliberation with a unanimous verdict of not guilty for Campbell and his co-defendant Sheak K. Brown, who resides in Liberia. They were charged with economic sabotage, smuggling and criminal conspiracy, that carries a heavy prison term ranging from five to ten years. The jurors said Campbell and Brown were only guilty of criminal facilitation, which carries a lesser penalty. A person commits criminal facilitation when he or she “renders aid” to a person who is committing a crime. To be guilty of criminal facilitation, the crime the defendant is helping to facilitate must be a felony with the person committing the actual crime being under the age of 16, and the facilitator over 18.
Meanwhile, the prosecution is yet to object to the jury’s decision, mainly as a result of the time the verdict was delivered.
The case started when the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia last October notified local investigative agencies, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), that several vehicles had been stolen from the US and were being shipped to Liberia. That allegation was denied by Campbell and his co-defendant Sheak K. Brown, who were charged with theft of property, including other charges. They were later granted bail. The prosecution’s indictment alleged that from July to October 2016, co-defendant Campbell, Sheriff Lasudo, and others yet to be identified, while in the United States, conspired with co-defendant Brown to knowingly steal, take, convert, ship, receive and retain in Liberia seven stolen vehicles belonging to persons in the USA, without the authorization of the owners. The indictment revealed that the vehicles were shipped to Liberia in the name of a non-existent, fictitious company named “Shea K. Brown Building Material Incorporated,” for which the co-defendant presented himself to be the purported general manager.
As part of the scheme, and in order to conceal the identity of the stolen vehicles, according to the indictment, co-defendant Campbell provided false and incorrect information about the vehicles to the shipping lines, which was placed on the Packing List, Invoice, Bill of Lading and the Request for Inspection forms that were submitted to BIVAC and customs officials in Liberia. According to the indictment, co-defendants Campbell and Brown also caused their broker – New Millennium Cargo Handling, to falsely declare in the LRA Asycuda System misleading information about the year, model, the VIN numbers and the mileage of the vehicles for the sole purpose of concealing their true identity/information. The indictment alleged that Co-defendant Brown caused their broker to enter into the Asycuda System on September 30, 2016, and declare misleading specifications of the vehicles’ VIN numbers, year and mileage, which resulted in the understatement of the true value of the vehicles, with the intent of both concealing the identity of the vehicles and defrauding the Government of Liberia of the required taxes, even though the vehicles’ models were recent and were in the category of luxury vehicles.
The VIN numbers of the vehicles were allegedly changed criminally in the system by co-defendant Sherman.