By Abednego Davis
The grounds of Criminal Court ‘C’ yesterday was the dramtic scene of disbelief and laughter when a member of the defense team resisted the marking of photograhic evidence believed to have contained the seven vehicles that were allegedly stolen from the United States of America and brought to Monrovia.
Cllr. Johnny Momoh’s argument was that the photograh is not the vehicles, and as such, the court should compel prosecution to make available the vehicles in court.
The seven vehicles were allegedly brought into the country in July 2016 by co-defendant Armstrong Tony Campbell (who resides in the US), through the Freeport of Monrivia, but are yet to appear at the court.
Since then, the vehicles have been in the possession of the Liberia Revenue Authoirty (LRA) according to Cllr. Momoh’s suspicion of their whereabouts.
The LRA has alleged that it received the information about the stolen vehicles through a communication from the Regional Security Office from the US through its embassy in Monroviia.
Momoh’s argument was never addressed yesterday by Judge Jusuf Kaba, who later invited both the defense and prosecution teams to his office for a closed-door discussion. After the meeting he suspended the case for today’s hearing.
Kaba is expected to decide whether or not the court should accept the photographs of the vehicles as evidence in the absence of the physical vehicles.
Drama ensued when Alvin James, the police chief investigator, whose invesigation charged Campbell and another defendant, Sheak K. Brown, (who resides in Liberia) and put them on the witnes stand.
Cllr. Dakku Mulbah, government lead prosecutor and also Montserrado County Attorney asked James who was in the witness box to identify whether the vehciles he investigated were the same ones on the photograh.
At that point Cllr. Momoh asked the court not to allow James to identify the photograhs, arguing that the case was about vehicles and not photos.
“The prosecution has to bring those vehicles and not use photograhs as evidence representing them,” Momoh argued.
“It was Gregory Coleman, Inspector General who instruted me to conduct the investigation after he received communcation from the US- Embassy concerning the alleged stolen vehicles,” James’ testimony claimed.
“Those were luxious vehicles,” the state witness alleged.
The US report claimed that the seven used vehicles were identified as Dodge Range 1500 valued at US$40,000; AUDI Q-5 valued at US$50,000; and Toyota Raffle valued at US$21,000.
Others are Mercedes C-300 with a market value of US$4,354; Cherokee Jeep valued at US$35,000; Mercedes ML-450 valued at US$60,000; and Jeep Ranger valued at US$30,438, Saamoi alleged.
Defendants Armstrong Tony Campbell (who resides in the US) and Sheak K. Brown, general manager of Sheak K. Brown Building Materials, Incorporated of Monrovia are on trial for the commission of multiple crimes that include theft of property, economic sabotage, smuggling, criminal conspiracy and facilitation in connection with the missing vehicles.
In a related development, the LRA through its Anti-smuggling and Intelligence Unit (ASIU) has seized two vehicles that were reportedly smuggled into the country through a BIVAC pre-shipment Inspection (PSI) sealed container via the Free Port of Monrovia.
The two vehicles, a used Toyota Mini Bus, and a Mitsubishi Pickup which were on board a container marked “MRKU4628339” from Australia, were illegally imported by the Inland Trading Center as car parts, and cleared by the Sealine Marine Cargo Handling Inc, but were intercepted on June 15.
This is the second time a container with smuggled goods from Australia has been intercepted in the country.
An LRA Anti-Smuggling investigation established that the seats, doors and engines were disassembled and secretly concealed in the containers’ middle segments.
The investigation indicates that the vehicles were hidden deep among several other consignments and were not declared as items on the shipment listing by the consignee.
The LRA reportedly discovered the criminal act following a robust inspection carried out by its intercepting officer and a Customs examiner, who escorted the container to Paynesville.
The mini bus remained on the container and was transported back to the Freeport of Monrovia for custody while the Mitsubishi Pickup which was immovable as a result of the disassembled parts, remained under the custody of the consignee to be returned to the Freeport of Monrovia.
The action is in compliance with Section 1608 of the Revenue Code of Liberia, which specifically refers to Untrue Declaration, Recovery of Duty and Penalty.