The Liberia Connection: Cocaine-Trafficking Suspects Sent to NY

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For the first time, the government of Liberia agreed to send the suspected kingpins of a drug trafficking network to the U.S. for trial.

    Investigators said eight cocaine traffickers charged in New York will face trial here due to increased cooperation between the two nations. Five suspects are expected to be arraigned in federal court later today.

    Officials said drug cartels based in Colombia and Venezuela used Liberia as a shipping point to get drugs sent on to other parts of Afirca as well as Europe.   Over the last decade, drug cartels from South America have exported billions of dollars of cocaine through African nations.  

    Some of the cocaine was also going to be sent to New York, officials said.

    Drug Enforcement Administration agents infiltrated the ring using undercover cooperators. Among those charged in the U.S. are Chigbo Peter Umeh, also known as “Mike,”  and Gilbrilla Kamara dubbed “River Stallon.”

    DEA agents brought some of the suspects back to New York over the weekend.

    US attorney Preet Bharara said "The government of Liberia has taken an aggressive and emphatic stand in shutting its doors to drug traffickers," U S attorney Preet Bharara said.

    Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued a statement stating "The Republic of Liberia is officially closed for business to the narcotics trade."

    Officials said several of the drug suspects were caught trying to bribe Liberian authorities for help in getting drug shipments in and out of the country. Investigators said cartel members used private planes and ships to get the drugs moved from continent to continent.

    Some of the drugs were supplied by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is one the world's largest suppliers of cocaine, Bharara said.  FARC has also staged a bloody, decades-long insurgency in Colombia.

    Prosecutors said the establishment of a narcotics safe haven in West Africa could result in the spread of the illegal drug trade as well as a new source of financing for terrorist and drug trafficking groups.