U.S. Amb. McCarthy Speaks on Shock Non-guilty Verdict in US$100M Cocaine Case Amid ‘Overwhelming Evidence’
MONROVIA – When the jury panel hearing the US$100 million drug trafficking case at Court “C” handed down its non-guilty verdict in favor of four suspects on grounds that there was no substantive evidence to hold them liable for charges against them, it sent shockwaves not only in Liberia, but across the world.
The ruling sparked a huge debate in Liberia with legal pundits and the public giving diverse opinions.
The latest high-profile official to speak out is outgoing U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy.
Speaking about the rulings both in the US$100 million cocaine case and the human trafficking case publicly for the first time since these verdicts were passed, Amb. McCarthy expressed sadness and said despite the overwhelming evidence to hold the suspects accountable, they were all set free by the court.
He expressed hope that this does not send a bad message to international drug traffickers that the system is weak to bring them to justice.
“While I hesitate to second-guess any jury and I fully admit that I am not privy to all the details of the prosecutions or their defenses, I hope this does not send a signal of weakness in enforcement to international criminal cartels,” said.
“From an outsider’s perspective it is alarming that convictions could not be obtained in Liberia, even when the evidence seemed so overwhelming. I am also worried about what these developments portend for Liberia’s justice sector, which the United States Government has supported with many millions of dollars over the years in capacity development.”
In October 2022, the Liberian Government’s joint security in collaboration with U.S. Intelligence, arrested 520 kilogram of cocaine valued at US$100 million, an arrest that has gone down in Liberia’s history as the biggest ever drug-bust in the country.
The Ambassador’s Statement came after the Supreme Court denied the Ministry of Justice’s request to re-try the four suspects and freeze the US$210,000 the court ordered to be given back to them.
The court, in line with the jurors’ verdict had ordered the defendants to be released and the amount of US$210,000 seized from them be restituted by the government of Liberia.
The defendants include Malam Conte, Adulai Djibril Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam, and Oliver A. Zayzay.
While the verdict continues to hang a dark cloud on Liberia’s justice system, Amb. McCarthy lauded the security sector for their “outstanding coordination” involving all members of the sector and public prosecutors in recent weeks that led to ground breaking arrest of several criminals.
“Our first salute goes to the Liberia National Police, for their collaboration with our consular section that resulted in the arrest of two fraudulent document vendors who sought to undermine the integrity of US and Liberian documents, which could have weakened the security of both our nations.”
The United States Ambassador cautioned all applicants seeking U.S. Visa to be aware that there are unscrupulous criminals who are involved with the production of fraudulent documents in order to obtain U.S. Visa.
“Be warned that if caught with such a document, getting a Visa through the US Embassy will take you years and may be ineligible for the US. Funded training and assistance opportunities as well. We appreciate the Government of Liberia for smashing these criminal enterprises and putting them behind bars,” he said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. When you are caught using falsified documents, you will render yourself ineligible for any visa for years to come, if not for life, and the money you spent on these scoundrels will be lost forever. You may be ineligible for U.S. funded training and assistance opportunities as well. We greatly appreciate the assistance from the Government of Liberia in smashing these criminal enterprises and putting miscreants behind bars.”
He lauded the security forces working with the USAID-funded Focused Conservation project that seized a shipment of pangolin scales –the largest interdiction ever in Liberia, as well as the arrest of suspect accused of mistreating a chimpanzee, which was later delivered to safety at a certified chimpanzee shelter.
He also congratulated the security sector interagency team that used “old-fashioned detective work” to identify and raid pharmacies who were selling donated medicines.
In addition, he hailed the joint security team in Karnplay, Nimba County for preventing a suspect from smuggling stolen pharmaceutical drugs into Cote d’Ivoire over the weekend.
He said medicines purchased and donated by USAID and other international partners so that they could be given free of charge to those in need, were instead being sold by “heartless, greedy pharmacists” to make easy money.
On the “appalling” alleged kickback scheme of health funding in Margibi, the Ambassdor reiterated the Embassy’s support to Minister Jallah’s recommendation that Margibi County Health Officials be prosecuted by the LACC to the fullest extent of the law.
“We look forward to seeing those prosecutions to a successful end, which will then allow us to resume reimbursing legitimate expenses at the county level in Margibi, per our $55 million-dollar Government-to-Government Health assistance program.”