Stalemate in USD100m Cocaine Case -Due To Lack of Translators

MONROVIA – The lack of translators versed in Portuguese and Arabic is said to be the major hindrance to the commencement of the speedy trial of the unprecedented $100m cocaine case currently before the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice after the process of facilitating hiring some translators suffered setback when the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Legal   Cllr Deweh Gray wrote  the court asking it to redirect its earlier communication to Minister Dee-Maxwell Kemayeh to enable him write a diplomatic note to the US Embassy requesting Portuguese and Arabic translators.

When the case came up on Tuesday, February 14, 2023 before the court, the defense lawyer prayed the court to provide Portuguese and Arabic translators as two of the defendants could not speak English while on the other hand, the prosecution lawyers also asked the court to have the jurors selected and after the selection, they should be requested to sit on the proceedings to make determination at the end of the trial.

Our judicial correspondent said during yesterday’s hearing,  Judge Blamo Dixon commenced phase one of the two requests which called for the selection jurors, but said phase two  was not possible as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that both Portugal and Guinea Bissau do not have embassies in Liberia.

The Analyst was able to obtain some views surrounding the needless technicalities being employed where the court was asked to redirect its earlier request sent to Deputy Minister Gray to now be sent to Minister Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayeh when he supervises the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the court’s first communication could be used by Minister Kemayeh to refer the diplomatic notes to the United States Embassy near Monrovia appealing for a translator’s assistance.

“Could it be that Liberia does not have friendly ties with other countries to prevail in implementing their quest for translators so  to enable the court to fight the 100 Million Dollars cocaine case in court?

“This we believe might also cause a serious delay tactic to have the court speedily prosecute the defendants as the issues of inflow of drugs and other substance continue to be on the increase”, a source close to the prosecution who did not want to be named in the papers said.

Meanwhile, Judge Dixon, has ordered the clerk of court to address a letter to Minister Dee-Maxwell Kemayah to forward a diplomatic note to the Embassy of the United States of America to aid the court with two interpreters to translate from Portuguese to Arabic languages to English and vice versa.

During the opening proceedings, Judge Dixon granted prosecution lawyers’ request for Jury sequestration in the ongoing case over the alleged trafficking of 520kg of cocaine valued at US$100M. The action of sequestration means taking legal possession of assets.

Our correspondent reported that Judge Dixon’s decision came when the prosecution team requested the court the selection of the trial jury and after the selection, the jurors should be sequestrated to sit on the proceedings and thereafter make a determination.

It added that their application is premised on the law of jury sequestration and it is not intended to delay the proceedings.

Our correspondent further said that based on the request made by the prosecution, the court thereby ordered the clerk to address a communication to the court administrator of the Supreme Court to inform her that the prosecution in the proceedings has requested the court for jury sequestration of prospective jurors.

Following the prosecution lawyers’ request the defense lawyers also requested the court to provide Portuguese and Arabic interpreters to help aid the defendants that do not speak English, a request that was granted by the court.   

Judge Dixon maintained that the Supreme Court should also provide a bus that will enable the prospective jurors to go to their residences to collect their personal effects and belongings that they will be used on the premises of the Temple of Justice while sequestrated.

It can be recalled the Defendants Malam Conte, Adulai Djibri Djalo, Makki Admeh Issam and Oliver A. Zayzay and others to be identified were indicted for committing the crime of Money Laundering, Unlicensed Possession of Controlled Drugs, Unlicensed Importation of Controlled Drugs and Criminal Conspiracy.

The Grand Jury of Montserrado indictment noted that the act of the Defendants is contrary to Section 15.2 of the Money Laundering Act, 2.2(b) of the Penal Law of Liberia, and against the peace and dignity of Liberia.

Following the arrest of the drug at the Freeport of Monrovia officials said they are now trying to determine whether the drugs were transiting through Liberia. The country has been used by drug smugglers for that purpose due to the country’s weak and chronically underfunded security sector, according to experts.

At the time, the US Embassy in Monrovia thanked the government for acting on intelligence to carry out the arrests.

“The success of this operation is the direct result of excellent communication between law enforcement agencies around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Liberia”, it said.

Under Liberia’s current laws, drug smuggling is an offense for which suspects can get bail. A proposed bill that would strengthen the punishment for drug traffickers has yet to be approved by the Senate and remains stalled in the legislature.

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