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Viewing cable 09FREETOWN152, LANDMARK NARCOTICS CASE ENDS: DEFENDANTS NOT GOING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09FREETOWN152 2009-04-22 15:03 2010-12-25 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Freetown
VZCZCXRO6244
RR RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0152/01 1121544
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 221544Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2598
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0348
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 FREETOWN 000152

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (JHUNTER/ESPRUILL) AND INL/AAE
(KGOLDSTEIN)
BRUSSELS FOR DOJ/DEA (TSCARANTINO)
DOJ FOR DEA/OS/OSE (MCMANAMON/LENARTOWICZ),
DEA/OS/OSE/CNTOC (BROWN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2019
TAGS: SNAR PGOV PREL SL
SUBJECT: LANDMARK NARCOTICS CASE ENDS: DEFENDANTS NOT GOING
TO DISNEYWORLD

REF: A. 08 FREETOWN 336
B. 08 FREETOWN 461
C. 08 FREETOWN 552

Classified By: Ambassador June Carter Perry for reasons 1.4 (b/d)

1. (C) Summary: The Government of Sierra Leone's judicial
system completed its landmark narcotics case (reftel A) on
April 20, finding all defendants guilty. The first case tried
using the national Narcotics Control Act of 2008, this
creates valuable legal precedent, while also sending a
message to narcotraffickers that Sierra Leone will not allow
itself to become another West African country overrun by the
global drugs trade. Of particular note were the convictions
for the foreign defendants, three of whom were expelled into
U.S. custody following the conclusion of the trial.  Despite
Sierra Leone's general lack of capacity and infrastructure,
the collaborative efforts between the President and the
judicial and security sectors to bring this case to a strong
and dramatic conclusion demonstrates that political will
exists here to effectively combat the issue. The USG should
stand firmly behind President Koroma and the Government of
Sierra Leone to encourage further counternarcotics efforts,
and enable them to not only interdict drugs within their
borders, but set a positive example for other nations in the
sub-region that the war on drugs is one worth fighting. End
Summary.

---------------
CASE BACKGROUND
---------------

2. (C) The July 13, 2008, bust of an aircraft carrying over
700kg of cocaine (reftel A) created shockwaves in Sierra
Leone, where many citizens and government representatives
believed that their country had escaped the narcotics
transiting trend growing in West Africa. In the reactive and
somewhat ramshackle investigation that followed, scores of
people were arrested or questioned in connection with the
case, with 18 people ultimately being charged with
narcotics-related offenses under the Narcotics Control Act.

3. (C) The arrest of Ahmed Sesay, a close relative of the
then Minister of Transportation Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, left the
government open to criticism that it was complicit in the
trafficking, highlighting the importance of strong government
action to retain its credibility and commitment to law and
order. A group of foreigners were also arrested, including
the pilot and crew of the aircraft that brought in the
cocaine, and others in Sierra Leone who were here to
facilitate the onward movement of the drugs.

4. (C)  Harvey Steven Perez, an American-Colombian dual
national, was considered the key trafficker in the ring.  On
September 15th (reftel B), President Koroma requested the USG
to assist in the removal of all of the suspected
narcotraffickers, as well as Sierra Leoneans who could be
indicted in the U.S.  The President noted that he wanted rule
of law to prevail, and was concerned that the
narcotraffickers would undermine the judicial system.  The
President said he had encountered difficulties with the
process but was determined to see the case to the end.  On
September 26, 2008, accompanied by U.S Ambassador, GoSL
Foreign Minister and Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Washington,
President Koroma met in Virginia with senior DEA officials
and USG intelligence agency representatives.

5. (C) Subsequently, federal attorneys from the southern
district of New York, assisted by DEA agents who had been
asked by the government of Sierra Leone to help with the
investigation, succeeded in securing indictments against two
of the traffickers, Harvey Steven Perez and Gerardo Quistana
Perez.  On November 24th, (reftel C), the US Embassy
presented a diplomatic note to the government of Sierra Leone
concerning the indictments.  In line with Koroma's request of
September 15th, the Embassy informed the GoSL that we were
prepared to accept the transfer of both indictees.  In
February, the Embassy presented a second diplomatic note
asking for the transfer of XXXXXXXXXXXX as a material witness
(note: XXXXXXXXXXXX was acting as a DEA informant when swept up in
the arrests).  In subsequent meetings, the president was
informed that if he provided a 5-day notification, the U.S.
was willing and able to remove the three individuals as per
his earlier request.  On 15 April, the president met with the

FREETOWN 00000152  002 OF 003

Ambassador, informing her that the cocaine trial would end on
20 April, and the three individuals would be placed in our
custody for removal.  A presidential aide, who was concerned
that the Attorney General would not follow through with the
President's intent, arranged for a face-to-face meeting
between the President, the Ambassador, and the Attorney
General on April 18. The Attorney General assured the
assembled group that the prisoners would be released to the
United States on April 20.  Subsequently, the DEA chartered
an aircraft and employed agents to effect the transfer.

6. (C) Late in the afternoon of April 20, with the trial
lasting well past the projected timeline, the Attorney
General approached PolOff and informed her that Sierra Leone
would have to collect fines from the individuals before they
could be released to the USG.  A presidential aide hinted
that if the U.S. would pay the fines it would expedite the
transfer of the prisoners, but the U.S. Embassy noted that it
could not do so.  The court case was adjourned later that
evening, without a final judgment.  The DCM and Ambassador
were in 24 hour contact with the Foreign Minister,
Presidential Aides, and the UN Representative (who arranged
helicopter transport to the DEA plane).

7. (C) Determined to see the process through, the DEA and the
Embassy held meetings with the Attorney General and
discussions with other senior officials to impress upon them
the importance of backing their president's promises.  The
DEA noted that assets may in fact be seized through the
investigation of these individuals, and that there may be
ways to share some of these assets with the government of
Sierra Leone. This cleared the way for more progress the next
day.

8. (C) Court reconvened at 11am April 22, with judgments
being read but not an expulsion order.  Negotiations between
the Embassy and the government of Sierra Leone continued
throughout the afternoon, with the judge announcing the
sentences around 4pm.  The accused were then returned to the
prison, rather than being turned over to the United States
government as initially promised.  It was alleged by one of
the defense attorneys that the foreigners had paid a 75,000
Euro bribe to the judge for a more lenient sentencing.

9. (C) As negotiations continued through the night, the
government of Sierra Leone provided a diplomatic note to the
U.S. Embassy, stating that the three accused would be turned
over to the U.S.  At 10:30pm the accused were in fact
remanded to the DEA agents, who flew with them to the United
States (the expulsion is technically not a judicial action,
but a presidential decision, but it does require the judge to
recommend expulsion as part of the sentence).

10. (C) The following penalties were imposed:

1st Accused: George Aritstizabel Archilla: U.S. $6.5M and 5
years imprisonment
2nd Accused: Victor Manuel Aranjo Lastreto (Jnr): $4M and 5
years imprisonment
3rd Accused: Julio Caesar Morales-Cruz: U.S. $3M and 5 years
imprisonment
4th Accused: Mohamed Bahil Sesay (alias Ahmed Sesay): Le300M
and 5 years imprisonment
5th Accused: Hassan Karim Mansaray: Le100M and 5 years
imprisonment
6th Accused: Patrick Moriba Johnson: Le25M and 2 years
imprisonment
7th Accused: Chernor Momodu Bah: Le150M and 5 years
imprisonment
8th Accused: Harvey Steven Perez: U.S. /$5M and 5 years
imprisonment
9th Accused: Gerardo Quistana Perez: U.S $2M and 5 years
imprisonment
10th Accused: Eimy Fernandez Leandro: US. $3M and 5 years
imprisonment
11th Accused: Alex Romeo: U.S. $1.5M and 5 years imprisonment
12th Accused: Ibrahim Mohamed Manley: Le150M and 5 years
imprisonment
13th Accused: Released earlier in trial
14th Accused: Released earlier in trial
15th Accused: Alimamy Kabia: Le150M and 5 years imprisonment
16th Accused: Sadjo Sarr: U.S. $1.5M and 5 years imprisonment
17th Accused: Released earlier in trial
18th Accused: Mohamed Musa Kamara: Le50M and 3 years

FREETOWN 00000152  003 OF 003

imprisonment

The fines for foreigners were in U.S. dollars, and for Sierra
Leoneans in Leones (at about 3000 Leones to the dollar).

11. (C) COMMENT: The expulsion is not only a significant
diplomatic victory for the United States, but an internal
victory for President Koroma, who demonstrated that he has
the leadership capacity to overcome resistance within his own
government (including, perhaps, his own attorney general) to
assert the supremacy of the rule of law in Sierra Leone.
While the corruption accusations were troubling, with a
steady stream of rumors insinuating that drug money has been
a factor in the legal case from the start, any underhanded
activity proved inadequate in saving the traffickers from
their ride to New York.  Narcotics trafficking clearly poses
an increasing threat to the sub-region, and it is a great
relief that Sierra Leone possesses the capacity to arrest,
try, convict, and imprison narcotraffickers, as well as
overcome internal issues in order to cooperate at a very high
level with the United States.  Sierra Leone has the potential
to be a significant partner in the regional war on drugs and
to serve as a platform for other counternarcotics activities
in West Africa. END COMMENT

PERRY