Customs brokers accuse Abi Jaoudi of being linked to $100 million worth of cocaine
The Abi Jaoudi business group has been accused by the president of the National Association of Customs Brokers of Liberia of being linked to the smuggling of $100 million worth of cocaine which the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) confiscated on Last weekend.
Prosecution James Hinneh claimed that TRH Trading Incorporation, which is a frozen food company, is an extension of the Abi Jaoudi group of companies. Hinneh alleged that Abi Jaoudi smuggled the drugs into the country through TRH Trading, claiming that the Lebanese company was given preferential treatment by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to import anything with little or no control.
“So they usually have preferences, and to our dismay, TRH is the only company that says their frozen food import notification form has no barriers,” Hinneh said. “They go to the Ministry of Commerce, sign today and in some cases they don’t even go to the Ministry to inform the government (Ministry of Commerce) that they are bringing goods into the country.”
The NCBAL chairman, who spoke on October 4, claimed that the Ministry of Commerce and its Minister had given the Abi Jaoudi Group preferential treatment to import goods at any time without permission.
“To be very clear, the import process has procedures and, as we have done a bit of research on this particular shipment that entered the country with drugs, we are disappointed with the ignorance of established procedures that facilitated the entry of drugs into the country.”
In response to the allegation, Samuel Nimely, Abi Jaoudi’s managing director, said he had no knowledge of what the NCBAL president was talking about.
“I don’t know what the president of the customs broker was talking about,” Nimely said. “You know what all these questions are, you need to channel them to the Department of Commerce because they are the people who are supposed to answer them.”
The drugs were found among a batch of frozen products in a warehouse owned by SONIT Inc. However, a brief statement emailed to Daily Observer October 4 from a SONIT Inc reads: “SONIT LIBERIA INC. has ceased operations for the past two years and no longer conducts business in Monrovia/Liberia.”
“As a result,” continues SONIT Inc, “our offices in Monrovia have been closed since 2021 and our cold stores located in Monrovia have been effectively leased from October 1, 2021 to TRH TRADING CORPORATION. related thereto are solely under the management of TRH TRADING CORPORATION.
Currently, the LDEA and the National Security Agency (NSA) have arrested two foreigners and are looking for two other suspects for smuggling the US$100 million of seized cocaine.
The $100 million cocaine was seized on October 1, in plain sight, following well-verified US government intelligence by the LDEA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), when they took storming the compound of SONIT Liberia incorporated, in the village of Topoe along the Japanese Highway. SONIT is a frozen food company.
“Thus, this company has received a privilege from the Minister of Commerce, Mawine Diggs, as we are aware that Abi Jaoudi, without notifying the Ministry of Commerce, MTEF Scientific, to ensure that their documentation is in progress and get a clear report of findings before reporting to customs for payment of revenue as the process requires, but they only report based on their invoice which is a complete oversight of the process.
“For us, we believe that the rules should be applied to every importer in the country; you cannot force a particular importer not to follow due process and give Abi Jaoudi import leverage,” he said.
“But I would like to mention that there are some flaws in the process that has been established and we as an institution believe that the rules established by the stakeholders, the LRA, the Ministry of Commerce specifically, the MTEF Scientific , which we are supposed to follow, because customs brokers are not a level playing field.”
According to him, there are other companies in the economy that have privileges like Abi Jaoudi to ignore the relevant steps they need to follow for some reason he cannot explain.
“Let me say very clearly that the National Association of Customs Brokers is here to support the government in the fight against illegal drugs and unwanted substances in our country. Once we identify them, we will report them to the competent authorities so that we can try to limit some of these problems, ”he continued.
Meanwhile, when Commerce Department communications director Jacob Parley was contacted, he promised to respond as soon as possible.