Liberia: Justice Ministry Accused of Tampering with Evidence in Cocaine Case

Conte, the defense’s first witness in the case, had told the judge and jurors that the alleged photo of the container in which the alleged cocaine at the center of the trial was discovered was inserted by the government.  

The Ministry of Justice has been accused of manipulating evidence in the ongoing US$100 million cocaine smuggling case.

The accusation from Malam Conte, a  Guinea-Bissau national, who is one of the defendants in the case, comes after he had taken the witness stand at Criminal Court ‘C.’ Conte had told the judge and jurors that the alleged photo of the container in which the alleged cocaine at the center of the trial was discovered was inserted by the government.  The photo is now part of the documentary evidence that is being used by the prosecution to convince the grand jury to convict Conte and his co-defendants.

According to Conte, the government inserted the photo of the container full of fresh frozen pig feet into his phone, when he was arrested by officers of the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency in 2022.

“The content in my phone was written in the Portuguese language, but they erased and distorted it and changed it to the English language. They also changed my password in the phone just to insert the container under the pretext that I was the one who put it there,” Conte claimed in his testimony.

Conte and his co-defendants were indicted following a US$100 million cocaine bust on  October 1, 2022, in which one of them, a Liberian national named Oliver Zayzay, was arrested after seeking to purchase what appeared to be a shipping container full of fresh frozen pig feet from a refrigerated storage facility in Monrovia.

However, the prosecution’s first witness, Samuel Nimely, denied such an accusation, saying Conte willingly displayed the parking order of the container of pig feet shipped from Brazil, as well as the description of the boxes. Nimely, who is the general manager of TRH, the consignee of the shipment, said Conte used his phone to identify the photo of the particular container of pig feet from among several other containers that were parked at his warehouse.

“The gentleman was prepared to pay USD$200,000 for a container of pig feet, which cost USD$21,000,” the TRH general manager said during his testimony.

Meanwhile, Conte has denied ever agreeing to make an offer in the amount of US$200,000 to TRH Trading, to release the pig’s feet container containing the cocaine to them, as was contained in the testimony of witness Nimely.

Conte also noted that the two separate statements he signed during his investigation by the police and the drug agency, which formed the basis of his inclusion in the indictment, were written by the police on his behalf. According to Conte, when the statements were being taken, he informed the officers that he could not speak or understand English, but the officers brought a French interpreter to translate for him.

“I told the officers that I could not understand the French interpreter, but they went ahead and wrote the statements and asked me to sign, which I did,”  Conte argued throughout his statements, saying he could not understand the English language. “But this is not my statement. It was prepared by the officers themselves.”

Conte and the co-accused are being prosecuted on charges of “money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs, unlicensed importation of controlled drugs, and criminal conspiracy.

Their case grew from the government’s seizure of US$100 million worth of cocaine in 2022, during which time, a Liberian named Oliver Zayzay, and some of his foreign associates were arrested after seeking to purchase what appeared to be a shipping container full of fresh frozen pig feet from a refrigerated storage facility in Monrovia.

The defendants had initially offered to pay the owners of the container, AJA Group Holdings, the sum of US$200,000 for the entire container, which, at the time, cost less than US$30,000.

But when the defendants, within less than eight hours, doubled their offer to US$400,000 and, finally, to US$1 million, AJA Group said they were certain that Zayzay and his associates were dealing with a serious case of narcotics trafficking.

The company said they contacted the United States Ambassador, a move that brought both the American and Liberian anti-narcotics law enforcement agents into the picture and caught the suspects red-handed.

The US$100 million cocaine bust is believed to be the biggest arrest in terms of street value on the African continent so far.

Source:  https://www.liberianobserver.com/liberia-justice-ministry-accused-tampering-evidence-cocaine-case

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