Stolen Vehicles Case in ‘Precarious Situation’

Judge Kaba says the stolen vehicles, which are prosecution’s key evidence and which are in possession of the US Embassy, must be in the possession of the court, even before the commencement of the matter, according to the laws of Liberia.

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The ongoing trial at Criminal Court ‘C,’ which centers around seven allegedly stolen vehicles from the United States by a Liberian, Armstrong Tony Campbell, may likely not go as planned if the US Embassy in Monrovia insists that it will not turn over the vehicles to the court.

The non-compliance posture was announced yesterday when state lawyers asked the court to subpoena (compel) the Embassy to make the alleged stolen vehicles available to help them prove their multiple crimes case that includes theft of property, economic sabotage, smuggling, criminal conspiracy and facilitation against Campbell and his co-defendant Sheak A. Brown, general manager of Sheak A. Brown Building Materials, Incorporated of Monrovia.

Yesterday, Judge Yusuf Kaba said he would not issue the subpoena, rather he was going to communicate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prevail on the embassy to produce the vehicles in question.

“This is a precarious situation to the successful deposition of the matter especially in the absence of those vehicles being under the jurisdiction of the court,” Judge Kaba stated in his ruling.

He noted that “In the wisdom of this court, it has decided not to issue the subpoena requested for by state lawyers,” but that he was instead going to prepare a letter and address it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the difficulty of disposing the matter, “especially in the absence of those vehicles that are still with the embassy.”

The letter, he said, “will, therefore, request the Ministry to exert its influence on the Embassy to have those vehicles brought under the court’s jurisdiciton.”

Judge Kaba however explained that under the laws of Liberia, it is required that the vehicles that are prosecution’s key evidence be with the court, even before the commencement of the matter, which did not happen.

On the embassy’s non-compliance, Kaba said from the date of the commencement of the case up to the present, about a two-week period, the court has ordered the prosecution to produce the vehicles which are subjects to the crimes alleged to have been committed.

However, the criminal court judge said the prosecution had informed the court that the vehicles were under the custody of the US Embassy, a diplomatic mission.

Kaba said the court ordered the prosecution to produce the vehicles which resulted into the state lawyers requesting it to have the Embassy subpoenaed to surrender them.

Besides its unwillingness, it was the Embassy that raised the alarm about the seven vehicles and subsequently asked the government through the customs section of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to assist in arresting the vehicles and the defendants.

One of the alleged seven stolen vehicles

It may be recalled that in 2016, the US Embassy wrote the Liberian Government through the Foreign Ministry seeking assistance for the immediate transfer of the stolen vehicles to the United States.

In their letter, the Embassy claimed that the vehicles included two 2016 Mercedes Benz, two Jeeps (a Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, both of 2016 model), a 2014 Toyota Rav V4, a 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 (2016), and a 2016 Audi Q5.

In a Diplomatic Note, the Embassy said the United States has had a history of vehicles being stolen and illegally transported to Liberia and other West African countries.
“The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has been our primary contact in confiscating, detaining and repatriating said vehicles,” the Diplomatic Note stated, adding, “We have had a successful working relationship with the LRA and have ensured the proper rules of law are followed.”

Later, LRA commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba said while the authority was in the business of collecting lawful revenues for the Liberian people, it was also under legal and lawful obligation to promote fair trade, consistent with its mandate and in keeping with the International Convention on Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. The identified vehicles have been title searched by the United States Government through its Embassy and it has been determined that said vehicles are properties of US Citizens in the USA. At no time did the US citizens who hold legal ownership of said vehicles, sell their personal U.S. properties to any Liberian citizens or businesses. Therefore, the identified vehicles are not under any Liberian legal jurisdiction and must be returned to the rightful American owners. America has laws to protect the property of its citizens. Liberian lawyers and judges can go to the US Embassy and take a look at the cars. If the judge wants to make it an issue, the US Government can immediately refrain from sending any US Dollar Currency to Liberia and compel the Central Bank to no longer use US Foreign currency in Liberia.

    • I said below that Liberian courts have no jurisdiction over US embassy territory because it’s US territory, likewise the US has no jurisdiction over Liberian territory, once the vehicles entered Liberian territory the ownership became a matter for Liberian law, the former owners in the US can whine all they like, but if they want to claim ownership that claim must be in accordance to Liberian law.

      “the US Government can immediately refrain from sending any US Dollar Currency to Liberia and compel the Central Bank to no longer use US Foreign currency in Liberia.”

      While Liberia receives considerable aid from the US the scenarios you outline are not correct, any country can do as it likes with the US currency it controls, in fact there are more US currency notes held in foreign countries than there are in circulation in the US (which is one of the reasons why the US can continually run with trade deficits).

      • Andrew, you’re wrong. These vehicles are the rightful property of American citizens because they were stolen, not legally purchased regardless of where they’re now located. So are you’re suggesting that if someone stole your car and takes it to another country then you lose ownership? Your argument makes no sense. Also, the court doesn’t need the physical cars for evidence, because there are other ways to present the vehicles as evidence. Based on the Judge’s reasoning, let’s assume this evidence was a vessel or a ship, would he order that ship to be brought to court? It would be impossible given the size of the ship; you can’t bring it to court. This Judge is dumb.

        • Phil, I’m not suggesting that the owners don’t have a claim to ownership, only that that claim must be pursued through the Liberian legal system not the US system. As it is, the ownership will need to be proven rather than assumed, if only because almost certainly the US owners of all the vehicles are now insurance companies rather than the people they were stolen from.

          I’e no idea what the Liberian law is with regard to the Judges requirement for the court to have possession of the vehicles, though I imagine the judge probably doesn’t want them in the court room, perhaps he’s meaning that the court needs control over the vehicles before it can assign ownership, certainly I could see a problem with the courts giving a ruling if the cars were in Nigeria, and if they’re on the US embassy grounds they are effectively in another country.

          • I might have to rethink my comment about the case being pursued through the Liberians legal system for any of the cars in the possession of the US embassy. legally they’re no longer in Liberia.

          • No, our track record showed that our justice system is poor, not reliable so the American should seek their own justic…. and u make a good point phil

        • P.G; Thanks! Your analysis makes a lot of sense. The fact have been established. The VEHICLES were stolen. Now that the vehicles have been found, return to owners or the Insurance Co.

  2. 1. The US Embassy is US territory, it’s incomprehensible that the prosecution would seriously ask the court to subpoena the Embassy to hand over the vehicles, the court does not have the authority over other nations territory.

    2. If the US doesn’t want property stolen in the US to end up in other countries the US authorities shouldn’t allow stolen property to be loaded onto ship going to other countries. In this case it’s the authorities in the US that have failed to do their job, not the Liberian authorities.

    • Andy; the problems at U.S PORTS, are time, schedule and space. It’s impossible to check every container going through the most busy PORTS; NY/NJ, PHILADELPHIA… There are millions of containers going through these ports. The PORT AUTHORITY can only do random checks; otherwise, the already congested PORTS would be more and more congested. In the case of stolen vehicles shipped to foreign countries, INTERPOL has the means to track any VEHICLE stolen from the U.S. through the computer system; built into all new CARS. However, the IGNITION has to be turned ON; for the GPS to work. By the time they get to figuring out, the vehicle is already gone. *Source, Police Dept; Office of the A.G.

      • Henry, it’s no more difficult to check a vehicle before it goes onto a ship than when it comes off, and in terms of checking for stolen vehicles doing the check before shipment is more sensible. There are as many containers arriving in other countries from the US each year as leaving the US, so just as many to check.

        • A.W; vehicles get stolen all over the World; and shipped to other Countries. It’s a big problem. Everybody is relying on the GPS to find stolen vehicles. As a matter of fact, that’s how INTERPOL located those stolen vehicles; and informed the U.S Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Recently, some vehicles stolen in Australia; ended up in Liberia.

  3. The US Embassy knows that if it releases these cars to the Liberian government, it will never be seen again. The US Embassy will never release these cars and this Judge better get his act together and proceed with the case. His ruling makes no sense and the Supreme Court will order him to proceed with the case if it went that far. I’m assuming the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence of the vehicles as stolen property, why does he need physical jurisdiction over the vehicles? This case is an example of how some Liberian Judges lack the intellect to be a Judge.

  4. I am not a lawyer, but shouldn’t the vehicles be in the custody of the police when they were alleged to be stolen vehicles? And if so, shouldn’t the vehicles be under the jurisdiction of the court, when requested, to adjudicate the matter?

    I think the Liberian authorities- both the LRA and the police- are at fault here for allowing the vehicles to be deliver to the US Embassy. The vehicles should have been within the custody of Liberian authority until the matter is legally adjudicated before given custody to the US.

    I think the judge is right in that, the US Embassy flounts the laws of Liberia by short circuiting the legal process and taken possession of the vehicles in questions – the LRA & Police are culpable.

    • I have to agree with you and take issue with those insulting the judge and smearing his character even though I do not know him personally. Once the Liberian authorities turned the vehicles over the US authority, they gave the major evidence away. One more thing, unless you have a clear title (one without liens from a financial institute), the vehicle is technically owe by such institute and if you owe more than ten thousand US dollars on it, it is probably insured, thus the insurance company is probably the biggest loser here.

    • J.G; the stolen vehicles were seized at the request of the U.S Embassy, Liberia. It has been determined that the Vehicles were in fact stolen. The Police did the right thing, returned the vehicles to the U.S. Embassy. After all, the vehicles were stolen from the U.S.A. The next important step is to return the vehicles to the rightful owners in the U.S.; most likely the Insurance Co.

  5. The judge seemingly is not au courant with Property laws. “Wheresoever you see your property, seize it.” That’s just that the American Embassy has done. You release the vehicles to the Liberian police while the matter is sub Judice, they will begin stealing parts from the vehicles. The whole system is rotten and corrupt. You have former rebels in the police. Don’t trust them to release vehicles belonging to American citizens in their custody. They will steal the engines of those vehicles and sell same to Nigerians who have populated our city with all types of crimes. I am just sorry for Liberia and the way the Sirleaf Government has permitted criminals to take over our country. In fact, the Police, Customs officers, some members of the House of Representatives as well as the Senate are all involved in the network of criminals that steal vehicles from America. The American Embassy dare not entrust them with such expensive vehicles belonging to their citizens.

    • And that is the saddest part of the entire saga. You cannot trust anybody to do the right thing in Liberia and the number one reason the US embassy will never turn to vehicles (the evidence for a trial court) to the Liberian authority even temporarily.

  6. Additionally, the vehicles under international law are legally in the United States(the American Embassy ground near Monrovia is considered as such). Any trespass by Liberian authorities will be met with full force by the American Government. This Judge better be careful not to put himself in a mess trying to defend criminals.

  7. The Judge should instead ask those charged of the crime( the criminals) to produce documents( bill of sale or Titles of ownership) proving that the vehicles are theirs. Legally, the Vehicles according to International Law are all in America(the American Embassy near Monrovia). The Judge would need an American Visa from the Americans, if he wants to take a look at the vehicles seized by the American Government through its Embassy. “Wheresoever you find your property, seize it.” That’s the law.

  8. The silent majority will dismiss this judge if he attempts to take the Liberian law to United States grounds. The pallet devil is waiting at the Enbassy’s gate to convert him to hell. There is no evidence to show that these vehicles are on the Liberian soil right now. This Judge might be eyeing the stolen jeeps for himself, not the law. The Judicial branch interprets the Law and does not steal Executive functions. Diplomacy is executive in Liberia. The U.S. relationship suggest to Liberians how and why under development should eradicate stealing vehicles. This is the reason why the spy watch inform the Liberian Government. Learned Judges will become educated fools if they ignore the knowledge of the truth.

  9. As for me, do not attempt to answer me. I am already in the confines of majority with the mainstream’s biggest spy clock ever made, on heaven. The devil can be converted in hell. Not here.

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