Africa-Press – Liberia. The Ministry of Justice’s attempts to halt the enforcement of a judgment of acquittal in favor of the four defendants in the US$100m cocaine case, issued by Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, have proven unsuccessful as the Supreme Court declined to issue the requested writ of prohibition.
The Ministry had petitioned for a writ of prohibition to prevent Criminal Court ‘C’ from enforcing its judgment of acquittal in favor of defendants Malam Conte, Adulai Djibril Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam, and Oliver A. Zayzay.
The writ also aimed to halt the return of the US$210,000 that had been seized by the state during the arrest of the four men.
The Minister of Justice had seen the verdict which was delivered unanimously by a 12-man jury as a travesty of justice and believes it is a slap in the face of the Liberian Justice system.
Lamenting the lower court’s verdict, the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Deah, in a press statement, stated that, “The court ordered the return of the two-hundred thousand United States dollars seized by the joint security during the arrest of the four men, so why are they not around to receive their money if they know they have nothing to run from?” Min. Dean questioned.
Cllr. Dean condemned the verdict, stating that it undermines the collective efforts of Liberia and its international partners in combating the illegal transit of illicit drugs through West Africa.
“There was $100 million USD worth of drugs stacked in a container that landed in Monrovia, and the accused were caught red-handed attempting to take ownership of the container holding the illicit drug by attempting to bribe the businessman housing the container. Yet, the court, through the empaneled 12-man jury, said such brazen evidence didn’t warrant a guilty verdict. What more can the joint security and the Justice Ministry do to convince the court that the law was broken?” he retorted.
Minister Dean further pointed out that such verdicts only reinforce the widely held perception, both locally and internationally, that the judiciary, particularly the courts, may be compromised. He raised the question of whether Liberia should continue with the traditional jury trial process, considering the ongoing debate about the unethical practice of jury tampering during such trials.
The Supreme Court’s mandate will be read by the lower court on Thursday, July 1, 2023.
Following the High Court’s mandate, the lower court issued a notice of assignment on May 29, 2023, to both the prosecution and defense, scheduling the reading of the Supreme Court’s mandate for Thursday, June 1, 2023, at 11:30 A.M.
The Ministry of Justice recently expressed its frustration over the court’s acquittal of the defendants in the landmark drug case and cast blame on the age-old jury system.
Jurors at Criminal Court ‘C’ reached a unanimous not-guilty verdict, exonerating all four defendants accused of involvement in an alleged scheme to import a significant 520 kg of cocaine into Liberia.
The seized drugs were estimated to be worth over US$100m, making it one of the largest drug-related cases in the country’s history.
A Liberian named Oliver Zayzay and three foreign individuals were arrested for allegedly attempting to purchase the cocaine, which the government claimed had been smuggled among pig feet from Brazil.
The accused faced charges of money laundering, unlicensed possession of controlled drugs, unlicensed importation of controlled drugs, and criminal conspiracy.
According to the prosecution’s chief witness, the accused had 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.
Within a span of less than eight hours, the accused increased their offer to US$400,000 and eventually to US$1 million, raising suspicion for THR Trading, who alerted the United States Ambassador. The information was then passed on to Liberian security officials.
During closing arguments, the defense lawyers asserted that the government of Liberia had falsely implicated the defendants in the crime while allowing the actual perpetrators to go free, thereby prosecuting “innocent people.”