By Olando Testimony Zeongar
MONROVIA – Amid the recent acquittal of some alleged narcotic drugs dealers in a US$100m cocaine case, even in the face of ‘overwhelming evidence’ to have held the accused guilty, United States ambassador to Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy, has disclosed that he’s worried over what developments regarding the case portend for the country’s justice sector.
Ambassador McCarthy told a media round-table in Monrovia on Wednesday that like many Liberians, including the Minister of Justice Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, he (McCarthy) was saddened to see the acquittal of suspects in both a recent human trafficking case and in the $100 million cocaine trafficking case.
He asserted that he was hesitant to second-guess any jury and while fully admitting that he’s not privy to all the details of the prosecutions or their defenses, he’s of the hope the acquittal of the accused does not send a signal of weakness in enforcement to international criminal cartels.
He emphasized that from an outsider’s perspective, it is alarming that convictions could not be obtained in Liberia, even when the evidence seemed so overwhelming.
“I am also worried about what these developments portend for Liberia’s justice sector, which the United States Government has supported with many millions of dollars over the years in capacity development,” Ambassador McCarthy pointed out.
Howbeit, the U.S. envoy also had some good news for Liberia’s criminal-justice institutions, as he lavished praises on the institutions regarding what he termed some remarkable law enforcement activities in April of 2023, which he said are the kinds of steady, time-consuming, rule-of-law police work that often go unnoticed and underappreciated.
“It is also the kind of consistent ground-level law enforcement activity that can begin to change attitudes about impunity regarding those who think they are above the law,” he indicated, adding, “We applaud the outstanding coordination involving all members of the security sector and public prosecutors in recent weeks.
He disclosed that the United States government’s first salutation regarding the outstanding coordination involving all members of the security sector and public prosecutors in the country in recent times, goes to the Liberia National Police (LNP), for its collaboration with the U.S. Consular section that he said resulted in the arrest of two fraudulent document vendors who sought to undermine the integrity of U.S. and Liberian documents, which would have weakened the security of both nations.
“Let this be a caution to all applicants, that there are unscrupulous criminals in Monrovia who will try and seduce you into thinking that lies and forged documents are a short-cut to qualifying for a visa to the United States,” Ambassador McCarthy stated, adding, “Nothing could be further from the truth. When you are caught using falsified documents, you will render yourself ineligible for any visa for years to come, if not for life, and the money you spent on these scoundrels will be lost forever.”
He warned that those colluding with scoundrels in an attempt to dupe the system by falsifying traveling documents to gain entry into the United States, risk being ineligible for U.S. funded training and assistance opportunities as well.
“We greatly appreciate the assistance from the Government of Liberia in smashing these criminal enterprises and putting miscreants behind bars,” he noted.
Secondly, Ambassador McCarthy disclosed the Liberian security forces working with the USAID-funded Focused Conservation project leading to the seizure of a shipment of pangolin scales, which he said is the largest interdiction ever in Liberia.
“Let the wildlife smugglers understand that law enforcement is watching, and the police will catch and prosecute you,” the U.S. envoy said.
In addition, Ambassador McCarthy disclosed that Liberian authorities arrested a suspect accused of mistreating a chimpanzee, thereafter delivering the animal to safety at a certified chimpanzee shelter.
“Third, we congratulate a security sector interagency team that used old-fashioned detective work to identify and raid pharmacies that were selling donated medicines,” said Ambassador McCarthy, adding, “Just this weekend, the joint security team in Karnplay prevented a suspect from smuggling stolen pharmaceutical drugs into Cote d’Ivoire.”
He pointed out that medicines purchased and donated by USAID and other international partners so that they could be given free of charge to those in need, were instead being sold by those he described as heartless, greedy pharmacists, to make easy money.
“Like the expression “stealing candy from a baby”, these criminals were stealing donated medicine from the poorest Liberians – mostly children – to make a profit,” he lamented.
He continued: “It would be a lie to call this a victimless crime; I can tell you with no exaggeration that Liberians without resources have died unnecessarily over the past years because they were denied access to donated medicines.
These pharmaceutical products belong to the poor, and they have a right to receive them free of charge.
Let short-sighted, heartless thieves understand – the police are on to you, and they will hunt you down!
Prosecutors are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to arrest you, put you on trial, and get you behind bars.”