A 100 carat diamond, which is at the center of a lawsuit involving one Jefferson Sanoe, currently in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison, is reported to have been smuggled out of the country by a local diamond company, West Africa Diamond Limited, and sold in Dubai for US$1.5 million.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media, a senior staff at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME), told the Daily Observer that the diamonds were allegedly smuggled out of the country by some of his fellow staff members. The information, however, could not be independently verified.
The MLME is tasked with the responsibility of assessing and packaging diamonds for shipment out of the country by a diamond company approved by the Ministry, our source said.
“The company was investigated by the National Security Agency (NSA). The only thing that happened was that executives of the company and some senior staffs of the Ministry met and somehow handled the matter among themselves. They were even planning to negotiate the release of defendant Sanoe from detention and also to drop the charges against him,” this source disclosed.
Defendant Sanoe was arrested on October 21 in Gbarpolu County by state security for allegedly “stealing a diamond,” believed to have been owned by a MLME senior official.
The creek in which the diamond allegedly went missing is owned by the minister’s sister, identified as Marthaline Weah, who brought the allegation against Sanoe, who is currently in prison because of his legal team’s inability to secure a US$3-million bond. Under Liberian law the crime — Theft of Property — is a bailable offense.
The Minister for Land, Mines and Energy, Patrick Sandolo, when contacted by the Daily Observer via mobile phone, declined to comment, saying that he was attending a senior staff meeting. He however recommended his Inspector General, Mr. Fahneseht Mulbah, to speak on the issue. Mulbah denied that any of the staffs were involved into the alleged selling of the diamond.
“I don’t have any knowledge about what you are saying,” Mulbah said. “The only thing that I know about is that a man named Jefferson Sanoe was arrested in Gbarpolu County for stealing diamond and is presently in jail, charged with a US$1.5-million theft.”
“Though we are responsible to appraise diamonds before they leave the country for sale, we did not see this particular diamond that you are talking about. How would people accuse the ministry of helping West Africa Diamond to smuggle diamond that we didn’t see or know about?” he said.
He further stated that they are going to investigate the matter, in order to establish whether or not some of the Ministry’s staff were involved.
Further refuting the claims, Mulbah added, “We couldn’t hear the matter because it was criminal. Based on its criminal nature, it was the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the legal arm of the government that handled it. So how could we say, we are going to withdraw the matter from court to settle it? Is it our responsibility to do so?” he asked rhetorically, saying, “This issue is a complete lie.”
When the owner of the West Africa Diamond limited, only identified as Tunkura, who is also the president of the Liberia Diamond Association, was contacted, he told our reporter to meet him at his Broad Street office. Unfortunately, when our correspondent appeared Tunkura was absent. A man, who identified himself only as Cummings, told our correspondent that he was appointed to speak on behalf of Tunkura.
Asked about his company’s involvement into the alleged smuggling of the 100 carats diamond out of the country, Cummings said, “We don’t know what you people are saying. You can visit the Ministry to know if whether we have exported diamond in the last four months. Look, we have not exported diamonds for a long time. The record is there and you can check it for yourself,” he added.