Bong LDEA Officers Replaced -After Cutting Drug Deal In Leaked Audio

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After probably shielding officers linked to alleged bribery for nearly a month, leadership of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) has finally replaced the LDEA commander in Gbarnga, Bong County, Joseph Gortor and two of his deputies without any penalty. Christopher T. Jabbah has replaced Joseph K. Gokor as commander of LDEA in Gbarnga, while, Grace Boakai as Chief of Operations replacing Prince Boimah. Those allegedly involved in this audio recording include S/A Joseph K. Gokor, Commander LDEA Bong County Detachment, S/A Prince Boimah former chief of Operations Bong County and Julius Wayen David Dean’s Town Commander. But LDEA authorities at headquarters in Monrovia have remained tightlipped as to why no disciplinary actions have been taken, something that is seen as business as usual. Commander Joseph K. Gokor and few other LDEA officers were heard in a leaked audio has linked them to an illicit drugs scandal in the central Bong County. LDEA Bong County Commander, Other Officers Called To Monrovia For Questioning – News Public Trust The leaked audio, which was recently played on local radio stations in Gbarnga, reveals that the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency Bong County Commander, Joseph Gorkor and three of his deputies in Bong County have had a meeting with drug dealers in that part of the country intended to prevent and/or suppress illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs. The leaked audio also reveals plans to prevent the efficient and effective enforcement of the provisions of the drug law, or to arrest and investigate alleged violators, but to rather create an alliance with drug dealers for pecuniary benefits to themselves. The recent leaked audio came in the aftermath of the Liberian government losing of the US$100 million cocaine case in which the Criminal Court in Monrovia had to free several persons the Justice Ministry had arrested and sent to court due to lack of evidence. The actual culprits responsible for bringing the US$100 million consignment of cocaine into Liberia, the biggest ever in recent times, were said to have been at large, according to legal experts. Whenever officers of LDEA are involved in an unethical acts, it is commonplace for the anti-drug agency to simply reassign the officers allegedly implicated to other regions of the country, thus some sources say only further impunity and further undermine the fight against the proliferation of illicit drugs in this West African state. “If Liberia was a developed Country, those LDEA officers would been relieved from their post, while going through investigation but they were in their respective positions prior to their replacement,” one source said. The Code of Conduct serves two main purposes: Firstly, it encourages every single employee to take responsibility for his or her actions, and it seeks to provide them with appropriate guidance. › Secondly, it outlines the ethical principles which guide the business activities of LDEA. LDEA code of conduct Chapter 3 below says: 3 Commitment against Corruption DEA does not tolerate any form of corruption, neither active nor passive, direct or indirect, and works against corruption in all its forms. In all of its activities, DEA is committed to complying with the provisions of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), United Kingdom Bribery Act 2010, German anti-corruption laws, and any applicable anti-corruption laws in the countries, where it does business. LDEA implements adequate procedures, including a separate anti-corruption policy, in order to ensure compliance with these commitments and laws. In order to make all employees aware of DEA’s commitment against corruption and to inform them about LDEA‘s anti-corruption policies and procedures, all new employees have to participate in an anti-corruption training within 6 months after joining DEA, and all employees have to attend regular anti-corruption training. Scope of Application and principles 1.10 Anti-Corruption says Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery. The problem of proliferation of narcotic drugs in Liberia and the devastating effects they are having, especially on the youths of this country, is growing at an alarming rate, with many people calling on the CDC government to make declare this crisis a national emergency. Ever since the US$100 million cocaine case was lost by the government and with no trace of people who brought it into the country, many think the fight against the proliferation of narcotic drugs has reached a dead end, something that is partly being blamed on allegedly corrupt drugs enforcement personnel. Now, a leaked audio has linked several senior officers of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) to an illicit drugs scandal in the central Bong County. This problem has become so alarming, prompting amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2014, which was recently signed into law by the President George Manneh Weah after the Act was passed by the Liberian Legislature. Though copies of the said law are not yet readily available to the public, it is intended to deal with the drug menace more robustly with regard to those who contravene the drugs law. In addition to the amended drugs law, there is another law–the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency Act of 2014, which gave birth to the agency, the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA). It has statutory responsibility to enforce the drug law. There are several pertinent sections of the LDEA Act that deals specifically with the functions and duties that the LDEA. In Section 22.103. Functions of Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, the law states amongst other things that the LDEA shall: (a) formulate, monitor and coordinate national programs for combating illicit drug product trafficking and drug money laundering; (d) prevent and suppress illicit trafficking and unauthorized use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances or controlled drugs; In Section 22.104. Powers and Duties of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, the LDEA Act states that the LDEA shall: (a) undertake, coordinate, collaborate and facilitate the efficient and effective enforcement of the provisions of the Controlled Drug and Substances Law and any other anti-drug legislation under the Penal Law relative to unlawful acts involving any controlled drug and substances, precursor and essential chemical, and investigate alleged violators; (b) investigate alleged drug offenses; (c) arrest and apprehend as well as search all alleged violators and seize for the purpose of confiscation, the effects or proceeds of the crimes as provided by law and take custody thereof;

Contrary to the above provisions of the Act establishing the LDEA, a leaked audio reveals that the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency Bong County Commander, Joseph Gorkor and three of his deputies in Bong County have had a meeting with drug dealers in that part of the country intended to prevent and/or suppress illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs. The  leaked audio also reveals plans to prevent the efficient and effective enforcement of the provisions of the drug law, or to arrest and investigate alleged violators, but to rather create an alliance with drug dealers for pecuniary benefits to themselves. In a leaked audio, S/A Joseph K. Gokor, the LDEA Commander, can be heard negotiating with people believed to be drugs dealers and cautioning them to stay off the radar as the government has passed the drug law that prohibits them from selling illegal narcotics substances and illegal drugs. S/A Joseph K. Gokor, speaking at the meeting, says to a person identified as Baysah “aside from me, the drug law has been passed so we came to tell you people to park up and leave the area and go to other counties”. He then urged them to head towards Grand Kru, Nimba, River Gee, Margibi and other far away counties to continue with their drug deals where he believes it would be hard to be confiscated. He continued: “We give you one-month ultimatum to leave or pack and go into other counties because we don’t want to see one rock of drug here.” While warning them to leave, one of the dealers in person of Sackie Hills in response said, “we ourselves are finding different jobs to do than to continue with this work; we are tire”. After engaging the dealers, S/A Joseph Gokor is then heard encouraging them to keep whatever quantity of drugs they have in their possession terming it as their profits. He then said that, “we won’t arrest you people”, further stating that the rule of engagement entails that they provide funds as a token for the gesture they have rendered. The S/A can be heard telling the dealers: “For the rules of engagement you people should look for $150,000 (currencies not mentioned) as a farewell treat then you can pack your loads and go.” However, in the audio, the drug dealers listed challenges they are faced with in the drug dealing business to include but not limited to the lack of customers in Dean’s Town, Bong County and the fact that Karyee Town in Nimba which is not far from Dean’s Town in terms of distance, has now become the booming center for the drug trade in that region. After the drugs dealers have brought this to the attention to the S/A Gokor and his team, S/A Prince Boimah can be heard instructing the dealers as to how to put mechanisms in place that will benefit them the LDEA leadership. He further instructed them put themselves in the position so that after every two weeks, an unspecified amount can be given to the LDEA Commander in Dean’s Town for onward forwarding to them in Gbarnga. He promised the drug dealers that by doing so they (LDEA) will ensure they are protected and that their packages will pass untouched at various checkpoints and headquarters will be informed to keep records of that. This may just be a tip of the iceberg when it comes to corruption and complicity in the LDEA. Over the years, there has always been rumors that agents of the LDEA are involved with recycling of arrested and or confiscated drug and receive money from drugs dealers so that they (LDEA) agents can turn a blind eye on their activities. The recording in our possession actually substantiates some of these allegations. There is this argument that under the law recording people without their consent is illegal and does not serve as evidence against the person who was recorded. Not being a legal practitioner, this Reporter put this question to the County Attorney for Bong County, Atty. Jonathan N. Flomo who said that in his own understanding of the law of evidence, confidentiality is the right of every person. And even the Constitution of Liberia, in Article 16 states that “No person shall be subjected to interference with his privacy of person, family, home or correspondence except by order of a court of competent jurisdiction.” According to the Bong County Attorney, he doesn’t agree that this right to privacy extends to government official when performing their statutory duties. County Attorney Flomo narrated that in advance societies, law enforcement officers to include Drug Enforcement Officers usually have body cameras on them recording every move they make during their active line of duty. The reason for such is that public officials should have nothing to hide and they should not engage in illegal activities. This, according to him clearly suggests that ideal notion of privacy as outlined in the constitution may not apply to public officials especially as a defense in malfeasance. He also averred that is his opinion that public officials have zero expectation of privacy when performing their statutory duties, especially when the Constitution states in Article 15 a): “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution” and further in Article 15 c) that “In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.” The Bong County Attorney further explained that the law doesn’t permit and or sanction public officials acting illegal when carrying out their statutory duties. Public officials cannot defend their wrongful act by invoking their right to privacy when performing their statutory duties. On the issue of the leaked recording, the County Attorney for Bong County admitted hearing the audio and that his first impression was that of disappointment. He narrated that he felt a deep sense of “let down” as relates to the conduct of the LDEA officers involved. When the audio was played on one of the local radio stations in Gbarnga, Bong County, County Attorney Flomo said as chairman of the Joint Security for Bong, he immediately called an emergency joint security meeting and that minutes from that meeting is being compiled for onward transmission to the requisite authorities. With this leaked audio and that clear bridge of their duties as LDEA operatives, it is left to see what will the authorities of that law enforcement entity do to these ‘rogue officers.” Meanwhile, there is in fact credible information received by this news outlet that S/A Prince Boimah, the former OPS for Bong County along with other LDEA officers, while assigned in Bong County in 2019, were caught in the act of criminally facilitating one Josephine Nelson of Kakata, Margibi County with a bag of marijuana value at L$60,000. The investigators at that time branded the three LDEA officers as “bad agents” and “dangerous to the society.”  LDEA officers linked to corrupt deal react Reacting to the audio recording, Prince Boimah, former Chief of operations Bong County said, his request to drug dealers for 150,000(no currency mentioned) was one of their strategies to get drug dealers and more besides, security has many ways to execute their work. He added that his 150,000 request was done in good faith and it was a strategy to know those drug dealers in person because any time they plan to go do arrest, some of the men in the LDEA can inform the drug dealers. For his part, Alex Flomo, deputy commander said he wasn’t part of said discussion but confirmed that they went in David Dean town to introduce the New LDEA commander Julius Wayen to authorities of the town citizens.

Agent Flomo added that after the introduction of Julius Wayen, he left and went to his guest house for his Lone star phone he forgot about and upon his return, the discussion was concluded already. Also reacting to the audio revealing officers plan to connive with illicit drugs dealers, LDEA Bong County commander and former County commander of River Gee County Joseph Gokor confirmed of being in David Dean town on the said day (September 29-30,2033) but he neither confirmed to the 150,000 request nor denied said request. According to him, those were some of the strategies he used to use in River Gee County to arrest drug dealers easily. Commander Gokor said he has made significant gain when it comes to fighting against drug where some of those drug dealers have sentenced to nine and two years depending on the gravity of the crime. He added that because of his robust fight against drug, many of those who against his robust fight are the ones coming against him but confirmed report gathered by this news outlet revealed that he apologized recently during a joint security meeting held in Gbarnga for his connection to the audio recording. “Their plans will not stop me from performing my job,“ Agent Gokor added. By Garmah Never Lomo, garmahlomo@gmail.com/ newspublictrust.com

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