“Worrisome, Appalling, Shameful!” – Justice Minister Laments Not-Guilty Verdict for Drug Bust Indictees
MONROVIA: The Ministry of Justice has described as appalling the not-guilty verdict of Criminal Court “A” of the First Judicial Circuit of Montserrado County at the Temple of Justice presided over by Judge A. Blamo Dixon in the US$100 million drug bust trial.
According to a Ministry of Information press release issued Sunday, May 21, 2023, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean Jr has condemned the verdict, saying it clearly undermines the collective efforts of Liberia and its international coalition to clamp down on the illegal transit of illicit drugs using West Africa as the conduit to trade narcotics internationally from Latin America and elsewhere.
He said for Liberia to play its role effectively in this international fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes associated with illicit drug transportation and sale, all three branches of the government must take this fight as a collective responsibility and not just the executive.
“If the Executive through the Joint Security of the country, working in concert with their international counterparts, is ramping up the strive to apprehend and bring to book illicit drug traffickers and money launderers, our drug laws must compliment such efforts through appropriate legislations, and the courts must be ready to act in conformity with the laws and gravity of the breach of our laws,” Liberia’s Attorney General asserted.
He said it becomes worrisome and shameful as in the case of the recent verdict, for the courts to be setting hardcore criminals free when the evidence is overwhelming in the face of international security collaboration that tracked and brought the perpetrators of this heinous crime before the law.
“There was 100-million USD worth of drug 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?” Attorney General Dean lamented.
Minister Dean said what is even more concerning and despicable is the fact that these kinds of verdicts only lend credence to the widely held international and local perception that the judiciary, namely the courts, are inherently compromised and it has again ignited the lingering debate of whether the judicial system should continue with the age-old jury-trial process when there are always talks about the unethical practice of jury tampering during such trials.
The Justice Minister said the ruling has also brought Liberia to international ridicule. He said even more lampooning is the fact that hours after the verdict and the release of the defendants by Judge A. Blamo Dixon, the four men have now absconded.
He wondered why the men would flee or hide if they truly believed that they had committed no criminal offence. This is sickening, he said.
“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?” the Attorney General Dean questioned.
Meanwhile, the joint security is now continuing to mount its search for the four men who continue to remain at large.
In October last year, a huge consignment of 520-kilograms drugs with a street value of about U.S.$100 million was seized by the Joint Security of Liberia through an international security collaboration involving the American and Brazilian authorities.
For several years, West Africa has been a transit zone for narcotic drugs produced in Latin America destined for Europe and other parts of the world.