From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

GK, Chernor Jalloh & Alieu Sesay finally arrested for Cocaine Smuggling
Jun 3, 2010, 17:08

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Unsealing of Charges Arising From Historic Joint Undercover Operation in the Republic of Liberia

DEA’s "Operation Relentless" Culminates in Arrest of Eight Defendants for Conspiring to Use Liberia as Staging Area for Distribution of More Than $100 Million Worth of Cocaine

Son of President of Liberia Acts as Undercover in Investigation

NEW YORK, June 1 - Five defendants, Chigbo Peter Umeh, aka "Emeka Okonkwo," aka "Chigbogu Umehwunne," aka "Mike," aka "Chibue," aka "El Negro," Konstantin Yaroshenko, Gilbrilla Kamara, aka "Gibril Kamara," aka "Anthony Smith," aka "GK," aka "Gibry," aka "Gee Wee," aka "River Stallon," Ali Sesay, aka "Alieu Sesay," aka "Alie Sesay," and Gennor Jalloh, aka "Chernoh Nuhu Jalloh" – arrived in the Southern District of New York from Liberia on May 30, 2010, to face charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. The defendants, who were arrested in coordination with Liberian authorities on May 28 and 29, 2010, were transferred by the Government of Liberia to the custody of the United States to face narcotics trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The defendants have been charged in two Indictments that were unsealed today. According to the indictments and complaint unsealed today:

During the last decade, drug trafficking organizations based in South America have increasingly used countries along or near the West African coast as trans-shipment hubs for importing massive quantities of cocaine to be later distributed in Europe or elsewhere within Africa. Through a combination of privately owned aircraft and maritime vessels, these organizations, predominantly based in Colombia and Venezuela, have transported hundreds of tons of cocaine, worth billions of dollars, to places such as Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Togo, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia. In so doing, representatives of these drug trafficking organizations have often sought to bribe high-level public officials with large cash payments and narcotics in order to ensure the safe passage, storage and distribution of their cocaine shipments.

Since in or about 2007, the defendants have attempted to bribe high-level officials in the Liberian Government in order to protect shipments of vast quantities of cocaine, and to use Liberia as a trans-shipment point for further distribution of the cocaine in Africa and Europe. In particular, certain of the defendants met with two individuals they knew to be Liberian government officials – the Director and Deputy Director of the Republic of Liberia National Security Agency (RLNSA), both of whom (unbeknownst to the defendants) in fact were working jointly with the DEA in an undercover capacity ("UC-1" and "UC-2", respectively).

The Director of the RLNSA is also the son of the current President of Liberia. In a number of the meetings involving these Liberian officials, the defendants also met with a confidential source working with DEA (the "CS"), who purported to be a business partner and confidante of the Director of the RLNSA.

In seeking to ensure the safe passage of their cocaine shipments, the defendants agreed to make payments to the Director and the Deputy Director of the RLNSA in cash and also in the form of cocaine. The CS advised the defendants that a portion of the cocaine paid to the CS would be transported from Liberia to Ghana, from where it would be imported into New York.

The defendants participated in a series of face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, and telephone calls with the cooperating Liberian officials.

The 10 Cr. 457 Indictment

As set forth in indictment 10 Cr. 457, since at least in or about 2007, Kamara, 40, who is from Sierra Leone, has actively sought to recruit South American drug trafficking organizations to establish operations in various West African countries, including in Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Kamara has made efforts to corrupt and influence Government officials within the West African region in order to establish safe havens for the receipt, storage, and trans-shipment of thousands of kilograms of cocaine. Jalloh, 33, and Sesay, both of whom are also from Sierra Leone, have assisted Kamara with his drug distribution enterprise and with his efforts to corrupt public officials for the benefit of South American drug trafficking organizations.

Kamara, Jalloh and Sesay exchanged a series of emails and telephone calls and held numerous meetings with the CS, the cooperating Liberian officials, and a third Liberian government official who was also working jointly with the DEA in an undercover capacity ("UC-3"), in order to negotiate prices and make specific arrangements for the secure transportation of cocaine from South America through Liberia, including, but not limited to, a 4,000 kilogram shipment of cocaine from Colombia. The CS, who was introduced as UC-1’s "partner" and confidante, was present for many of these meetings. In the course of these meetings, the defendants understood that the CS, who was to be paid by the defendants in the form of cocaine, was going to send a portion of his share of the cocaine to Ghana, from where it would be imported into New York aboard commercial flights.

In coordination with Liberian authorities, Kamara, Jalloh and Sesay were arrested on May 28, 2010. On May 30, 2010, they were transferred to United States custody and brought to the Southern District of New York, where they will make their first court appearance later.

The 10 Cr. 457 indictment has been assigned to U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley for the Southern District of New York.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: "During the last decade, South American narcotics traffickers have burrowed a growing foothold in West Africa, sending hundreds of tons of cocaine worth billions of dollars into the region. They have done so by seeking to influence and corrupt public officials with lucrative promises of payoffs. As today’s charges vividly show, the Government of Liberia has taken an aggressive and emphatic stand in shutting its doors to drug traffickers. Liberia’s commitment to the rule of the law and the international fight against the drug trade merits strong commendation. For the President of Liberia, this effort has been a personal one. Her own son, the Director of Liberia’s National Security Agency, courageously served as an undercover to make this investigation and prosecution possible. The transfer of these defendants to American custody reflects the strong partnership between the United States and Liberia in combating the international drug trade, which poses a serious threat to both countries."

DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart stated: "Unprecedented cooperation from the highest levels of government in Liberia helped expose drug smuggling and corruption that led to indictments of African, Colombian, and Russian traffickers. Operation Relentless successfully battered the pipeline of cocaine flowing from South America, through Africa, and into Europe. In this case, ton quantities of FARC cocaine were seized and the operations of several major traffickers were disrupted."

The Honorable Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, stated: "As today’s charges show, the Republic of Liberia is officially closed for business to the narcotics trade. We are strongly committed to combating international drug organizations that seek to exploit our country for their own profit. We are proud of our strong partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, and we look forward to strengthening and deepening this relationship in the years to come."

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jenna M. Dabbs, Christopher LaVigne and Michael M. Rosensaft are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the indictments and complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.