A jury hearing the case of Armstrong Tony Campbell, accused of transporting seven stolen vehicles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where he has lived for over 10 years, to Liberia, is expected to return its verdict later today at the Criminal Court C. 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 resides in Liberia and who were charged with theft of property, including other charges. They were later granted bail.
Today’s deliberation will begin with both the prosecution and the defense teams spending hours summing up the key points of the trial. Many legal experts have described the trial as “a landmark case” because the presiding judge, Yussif Kala, invited officials of the United States Embassy to produce the alleged stolen vehicles, which led to the suspension of the case for weeks. However, the embassy later complied, and the case finally resumed. The prosecution’s indictment alleged that from July to October 2016, co-defendant Campbell, Sheriff Lasudo, together with 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,” of 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. 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 (that is, 2016, 2015, etc). The VIN numbers of the vehicles were allegedly changed criminally in the system by co-defendant Sherman.
All the seven vehicles were confirmed stolen by U.S. law enforcement and police records, and title documents of the vehicles were provided to the Liberian National Police during the course of the investigations. Campbell alleged that he had purchased the vehicles from one Sheriff Lasudo in the United States but failed to provide any transaction documents. He also did not provide any evidence that Lasudo held titles to the vehicles; neither did he provide any evidence of transfer of title to himself. According to the indictment, in order to conceal their identities, co-defendants Campbell and Lasudo in their course of the transactions provided misleading information on the Invoice, Bill of Lading and BIVAC Request for Inspection forms.
“Nowhere on any of the documents, whether invoice, packing list, titles, Bill of Lading, etc., are the names of Armstrong Tony Campbell or Sheriff Lasudo reflected, quite evident of the degree of organization in the commission and furtherance of their crimes,” the indictment claimed.