APMT Liberia Clarifies Role In US$100 Million Cocaine Case; Says LRA Has Direct Oversight In Checking Containers
One of the five defense witnesses in the US$100 million cocaine case, APM Terminals Liberia, has clarified its role in releasing two containers in question, which were stored at its facility.
Speaking on Wednesday, April 26, defense witness, the management of APMT Liberia, represented by its Deputy Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer, Emeka Ogbaaje, testified that the two containers were shipped into Liberia by TRH and released by APMT, based on an order from the LRA.
Ogbaaje told jurors that the writ of subpoena received from the court limits APM Terminals to speak about the clearing of containers, but unable to do so; rather, the LRA which has direct supervision of the checking and clearing of containers.
He said APM Terminal has played a slow role, or limited role, in the inspection and clearing of containers, particularly, the containers in question, mentioned in the Writ of Subpoena Decu Tecum.
According to him, APMT’s entire role in the logistic chain is only limited to the charge of the particular containers, storage and release of the containers, upon an instruction from the shipping lines and customs, and in said cases the LRA is responsible.
He shifted the responsibility of checking containers to the LRA and, by extension, customs, which is also responsible for having an insight into what items are in them.
APM Terminals’ appearance at the court was a result of a Writ of Subpoena Decu Tecum, issued based on a request from the defense lawyers to testify in the US$100 million case.
The request was based on a publication in the New Dawn, in which the paper quoted the President of Custom Brokers Union of Liberia as saying, “TRH, the company which shipped the containers, has been given the exemption of its containers being checked.”
The paper stated that before the drug bust at its TRH-rented facility on the SONIT Liberia Inc. compound in Topoe Village FIU had been investigating the suspicious tax evasion activities by TRH Trading Company, and the company, according to the report, had been clearing its containers on mere invoices and bills of landing without going through the proper customs inspection, which also includes physical inspection as is legally required for right taxation.
But Ogbaaje, further deciphering APMT’s role, said the document APMT received in the process for the release of the container is, from the shipping line, a delivery order, which tells the entity that the owner of the container has fulfilled its obligation towards the shipping line, thereby presenting a copy of the delivery order document to the court.
Furthermore, he said the second document, which is the “release instruction” from the LRA, is based on a Custom System, called Asycuda System, which is synchronized with the port operating system.
Ogbaaje maintained that upon receipt of the delivery order APMT simply logs into the Asycuda System to know which order the LRA has given and to know where the container should go.
“The instruction was under D-P, which means delivery point or premises, which he surmised that it should go straight to the premises of the consignee, where other customs processes will be concluded,” Ogbaaje noted.
APMT also presented to the court copies of the invoices of payment made by the consignee, now linked to the US$100 million drug case.
Nevertheless, Ogbaaje at the same time acknowledged that on September 26, 2022 two containers were released from the facility of APMT, the same date on which the two containers linked to the US$100 million cocaine case were released from the port.
The APMT Deputy Manager said it did not know what was in the container, because it did not partake in its check, but rather pointed fingers at LRA, which he said is responsible for checking containers.
It appears like people from high places in the George Weah government and the LRA may have an understanding of the container fiasco, as the APMT has clarified that proper checking of the container in which the alleged US$100 million worth of cocaine was brought into the country is not within its authority, but rather the LRA, as required by law before it was removed from the Freeport of Monrovia.
The containers, marked, MNBU4979592 and SUBU6082664, according to Custom Brokers President, James Hinneh, left the Freeport of Monrovia without being properly checked as required by law.
At the same time, Ogbaaje maintained that APMT did not know what was in the containers, because the company did not partake in its check, but rather pointed fingers at LRA, which he said is responsible.
In the same way, defense’s third witness, Othello Garblah, of the New Dawn, taking the stand for direct examination confirmed the publication of an editorial article about TRH containers not being checked and that this was not the first of its kind: TRH had been linked to an allege drug syndicate. He presented a copy of the New Dawn publication to the court.
Garblah noted that his write-up about government shielding TRH is self-explanatory on ground that travelers whose baggage contained contrary items are considered suspects until an investigation is conducted and the person is exonerated.
Meanwhile, Garblah is expected to continue his testimony on Friday, April 28, 2023 in the on-going proceeding due to a technical fault at Criminal Court “C”, resulting into the lack of electricity. Judge Blamo Dixon has thus rescheduled the case for continuance on Friday, April 28.
Before the start of Wednesday’s proceeding, Criminal Court “C” Judge, Blamo Dixon, announced that two of the jurors were sick after being notified by the Jury Management Team.
He said the management of JFK was notified to proceed with treatment and they agreed to administer treatment to them on Thursday, April 27.
At the same time, the Financial Intelligent Unit, one of the subpoenas through a request from the defense team to testify, has communicated to the court for an extension of their appearance on May 2.
The appeal for an extension for representation, according to FIU, is intended to afford the FIA enough time to be fully represented.
The communication is under the signature of the institution’s Director General, Stanley A.S. Ford. Judge Dixon granted the request from FIU, while the defense team is said to proceed with the matter.
In the same way, the Director of Seaport Police, Logan Davies, and the Anti-Smuggling Unit have been rescheduled to provide testimony.
The court said it was a constraint to set aside a brief testimony of the NPA Director of Police in particular, because the Writ of Subpoena issued to him did not specify bringing a document with a container number leaving the port because, as a law enforcement officer, he was working in the “open air”.