Malam Conte, a citizen of Guinea-Bissau, testified on his behalf on Thursday, as the Monrovia-defense’s first witness in the ongoing US$100 million cocaine case.
On Thursday, April 12, 2023, Malam Conte, a national of Guinea-Bissau who is at the center of the US$100 million case, testified that while under the custody of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) at their office, he was stripped naked and tortured.
“They stripped me naked for a week and made to lie down on the floor. They also tortured me at night and kept me without food and water,” defendant Conte revealed to Court and Jury.”
Defendant Conte stated that he was made to forcibly sign papers on two separate occasions at different times by some officers of LDEA while his rights were never considered by the investigating officers at LDEA.
He also revealed that when he was transferred to the Liberia National Police (LNP) he was made to forcibly sign papers by the authority of the LNP that was prepared by them, something which he claimed that he did not understand the content.
Explaining his ordeal to the Court and jury, Conte n ed that during all of the time he spent in prison at LDEA and LNP, he was denied access to talk to his family members.
Conte Informed the court and jury that he stayed at the LDEA headquarters for one week and was tortured.
“They kept me in prison without clothes, and during the night people came into my cell and tortured and even threatened to kill me.”
According to the defense’s first witness, after a week of torture by the LDEA (Conte) was transferred to the Liberia National Police (LNP) headquarters where he spent one (1) month at the LNP Headquarters.
He disclosed that those statements that were used by LNP and LDEA were never read to him or translated to him since he can not speak and understand English but only Portuguese and that all LNP did was force him to sign the documents.
Defendant Conte also informed the court that his phones were taken from him by the Manager of the TRH in the person of Samuel Nimely at their warehouse on the Japan Freeway.
Defendant Conte said he arrived in Liberia on September 19, 2022, on the invitation of a Brazilian national only identified as Gustavo to do a gold business, adding that he (Conte) Informed Gustavo that he didn’t have command over the English language.
During the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, defense lead lawyer Cllr. Wilkins Wrights claimed that his clients were wrongfully arrested by the joint security officers and are trialed.
Conte maintained that Gustavo advised him that Liberia is a Country where the official language is English. He said Gustavo asked him to find someone he has confidence in who could speak English it was at that point he got in contact with Adula Djalo, one of the defendants in the ongoing 100m cocaine case.
He, however, noted that when they arrived on September 19, 2022, they searched for a hotel to be accommodated and succeeded in finding the hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia. According to him, after several days at the Royal Grand Hotel, they were joined by Gustavo.
After a while, the hotel informed them that their reservation had expired. But they decided to move over to the Boulevard Palace Hotel where, they spent several days, after which Gustavo asked them to look for potential importers of frozen food here in Liberia.
“We decided to do the search asking for some entities here in the city of Monrovia that import frozen food and following the search, we met the entity THR that in our minds was one of the best importers of frozen food here in Liberia and after Adula Djalo was there with us asking for the price of the frozen food. After which, Djalo informed us that the entity had a bigger capacity of importation and they showed that the entity has the necessary quantity that they needed.”
On October 1, 2022, at around 10 am, they encountered Gustavo, who had a large bag in his car containing US$200,000.00 for the payment at the entity. He was told that people there were waiting for him, and when he arrived, he was allowed to enter the room where more than six Lebanese men were present. One of them identified himself as the Director of Commence for the company.
The business was conducted in Issam Makki’s presence, according to the defendant Conte, who also claimed that he did not know him. All that remained was for the defendant to pay the money, get the receipt, and return.
He observed that after they verified the money’s accuracy, they took him to the cashier to hand over the money. However, a short while later, the cashier came back holding a document that was to serve as the receipt for the payment. He gave it to the sale manager, who then signaled to handed to him.
“I was seated on the bench and waiting for the receipt and after some minutes, the manager of the company received a call and was speaking in the Arabic language he stayed on the phone for more than ten minutes and after the conversation, he sent to call the cashier and I saw him coming back and placed the bag with money on the desk which was the same bag I brought with the money and he also made a sign that he wanted to go and come to wait for him.”
After a few minutes, according to Conte, he entered the office with a man and asked the employee to get the money bag.
Following that, Samuel Nimely, the black manager for TRH, was sat to the side. When the sale manager signaled for the bag, he demonstrated that he was unable to leave. Samuel Nimely, who was carrying a pistol, instructed HIM to take the bag firmly, and then opened the door. The manager of the company, Samuel Nimely, forced him to enter his car with two armed guys sitting on my left and my right. Nimely then instructed him to follow him downstairs, but when we got there, he encountered two more persons who appeared to be carrying weapons as well, the defended narrated.
“We left the office and I didn’t know where they were taking me and then I saw the things that were not good because I was seated in the middle of two armed men and one driving was also with armed and they were taken me to a place that I didn’t know, I took my phone and informed Djalo what was happening, because I tried calling Gustavo at the moment it was not going.”
“We went directly to a warehouse and when we reached there, they ordered me to get down from the car, they opened a warehouse and after some minutes, I saw some cars coming in, they enter a warehouse and begin to put cartoons outside and at that point, I knew that something was happening especially when I saw them opening the cartoons outside and they were talking about drugs. But I knew it was a set up, then I called Adula and told him that we came to this country to do a business; clear and normal but what I am seeing at the moment it was nothing good for us if he could leave.”
In addition, the defendant Conte claimed that after they had removed the boxes from the interior, there had been recordings made and that his two phones had been taken in front of Samuel Nimely.
Then, he went on to describe, some security personnel appeared on the screen and were recognized as members of the American Embassy. They opened the bag containing the money, verified its contents, and then placed it in front of him before handcuffing him.
“I was again taken to the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency where they tied my face with a black T-shirt and put me in a cell after which they made a statement and forced me to sign it,” defendant Conte added.
prosecution is yet to respond to the latest allegation of torture being made by defendant Conte.
The UN human rights convention forbids torture noting; ”Torture is strictly forbidden under the United Nations convention and this is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) signed and ratified by dozens of UN member states including Liberia, following the Second World War in 1945.”
Article 5 of the UDHR says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Reported by: G. Watson Richards