MONROVIA: Amidst the controversies and insinuations that thrilled the confiscation of Moringa Leaves believed to contain illicit substance in which some top government officials were said to be linked to the drugs, the Director General of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency(LDEA), Marcus Zehyoue has stated categorically that there is no iota of truth whatever linking any government official because those implicated were arrested and assisting security agencies just as he said the investigation is ongoing..
Mr. Zehyoue made the assertion last Friday, September 15, 2023 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism(MICAT) at a special press briefing organized by MICAT to provide updates on the confiscation of the substance and how far the government has gone thus far while discounting some unsubstantiated documents flying around on the social media which distorted facts surrounding the drugs and the investigation that has been going on since the arrest of those said to have links with the case.
“For the record, there is no higher up in the government involved. Those who were apprehended are undergoing investigation. Currently as I speak to you the head of the security at RIA, the Supervisor of the Security Department at RIA, Stephen Daniels who is the consignee and Hinneh Quollie, an operative in the security section are all undergoing investigation. As I said, there is no higher up in the government involved in this case. What was told out there is a lie”, he said.
He said when the case of the confiscation was reported, his institution and other law enforcement contacted the Kenyan Airways, the airline that brought in the consignment and the entity, which he said has been cooperative in the investigation thus far, tendered in the waybill of the products from where information was traced to the consignee Stephen Daniels and he was apprehended.
Defending the documentations from the Kenyan Airways, Zehyoue said conventionally any parcel or consignment being conveyed on any airline comes with a waybill that contains every information of the item and that “we were able to contact Kenya Airways and the country manager for the documents we have and they are authentic”
He said through the waybill which he repeatedly considered to be authentic, security agencies handling the investigation were able to establish the sender of the products to be Hassan A. Omar from Nairobi, Kenya and the consignee, Stephen Daniels who is currently in the custody of the security agencies was identified.
“Like what the Minister said, the document you are referring to is not authentic. We reached out to the airline; the airline was the one that brought in the goods and the document you see out there is not authentic. So the document you see bearing Stephen Daniels is the legitimate document.
“So the document from the Kenyan Airways is authentic and we have been able to use it for the ongoing investigation. Any other information contrary to what we have is not real and credible”, he said
Asked about the quantity of what was confiscated was and the market value, Zehyoue said there were 10 boxes which contained 10 sachets 222 kilo and could not out rightly come up with the market value, something he said he has to consult with partners with LDEA to ascertain the actual cost. He however said the conservative cost of the 222 kilo is put at USD820k.
Responding to a question how the LDEA arrived at the conclusion that the Moringa Leaves contained illicit substance, the hard working LDEA boss said through the a working partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) and the United States Embassy in Liberia, LDEA was able to acquire testing kits which were used to test the products and it was established that indeed they contained illicit substance.
“When the case was reported at the RIA, we decided to take the samples of the substance and in collaboration with our partners, UNODCO and the American Embassy and in the presence of everybody, it was tested and it was proven positive.
“These kits are certified internationally. Overtime, they have been helping us with logistical support, capacity building by training our staff both locally and internationally”, he said
Speaking further he said he could not be specific on when the outcome of the investigation will be ready but said it is being done thoroughly and professionally and that once the job is completed the public will be duly informed, adding that henceforth the primary and only source of information on the case will be the joint security force.
Asked what the drug bust meant to the LDEA and how prepared is the agency to combat the drug scourge, Zehyoue said besides the logistical support they have gotten from the government and its partners, the passage into law of the new drug law which made the drug offence non-bailable was a major boost to their work “because when we arrest suspects, the next thing is their lawyers come and bail them out and the investigation is frustrated”.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Deputy Minister of Information for Public Affairs. Jallawah Tonpo said the emergency press briefing was necessary to provide clarity on the rumors circulating, linking top government officials to the case without any proof.
He said the government has taken two up two initiatives to combat drugs and there was no basis for the government or any of its officials to be involved in drug business. He said the government has passed the drug law which made the offence non- bailable unlike in the past and that the government has also launched the At Risk Youth Program aimed to rehabilitate victims of drugs abuse.
He said it was unfortunate that some people politicize serious issues that borders on the security of the state, stressing that what was key in the case is that the government has every information to prove that none of its officials are involved.
Boakai Fofana, the Deputy Minister for Technical Services who also spoke at the occasion said there has been attempts by peddlers to use the subregion to launch a massive drug trade and the government has been taking steps to ward off the criminals from the country’s territory.