Liberia arrests 2 after $100 million of cocaine is seized

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberian authorities acting on U.S. security intelligence have arrested two foreigners and are searching for two more suspected of trying to smuggle $100 million of cocaine seized in the West African country, officials said Tuesday.

The estimated value of the drugs is one-fifth of most of Liberia’s post-war annual budgets since the country's civil war ended in 2003.

“We want to be clear that Liberia will not be a haven for drug traffickers — whether as a point of transit or final destination,” Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean said. “Those arrested will face the full force of our law.”

Authorities said one of the suspects, a citizen of Guinea-Bissau, was arrested in Monrovia, the capital. The second suspect, a Lebanese national, was nabbed while attempting to flee the country.

Authorities are still searching for two other people — Brazilian and Portuguese nationals — who are still on the run, a spokesman for the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency said Tuesday.

Officials have said that 520 kilograms (1,146 pounds) of cocaine were concealed in a huge consignment of frozen poultry products that had been delivered to a cold storage facility near Monrovia's seaport.

Drug enforcement agency personnel acting on the American tip reportedly stormed the facility moments after the container had arrived.

Officials say they're now trying to determine whether the drugs were transiting through Liberia. The country has been used by drug smugglers for that purpose due to the country's weak and chronically underfunded security sector, according to experts.

A U.S. embassy statement thanked the government for acting on intelligence to carry out the arrests.

“The success of this operation is the direct result of excellent communication between law enforcement agencies around the world, including Brazil, the United States and Liberia,” it said.

Under Liberia's current laws, drug smuggling is an offense for which suspects can get bail. A proposed bill that would strengthen the punishment for drug traffickers has yet to be approved by the Senate and remains stalled in the legislature.