New York: The United States said Tuesday it broke up a drug ring that attempted to bribe the son of Liberia`s president and export 100 million dollars of South American cocaine from ports in West Africa.
Eight people were arrested and face charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison for attempting to import cocaine into the United States, the federal prosecutor`s office in New York said in a statement.
The charges involve three planned shipments of cocaine -- one that at 4,000 kilograms had a retail value of 100 million dollars and two more that totaled 2,000 kilograms, it said.
The drugs were to be shipped first from Venezuela to Liberia before being further distributed.
The defendants are accused of trying to bribe high-level Liberian officials, including the son of President Ellen Sirleaf, to protect the cocaine shipments and use Liberian ports to export the drugs to the United States and Europe.
"In seeking to ensure the safe passage of their cocaine shipments, the defendants agreed to make payments... in cash and also in the form of cocaine," the charge sheet said.
Sirleaf`s son, who is the director of the Republic of Liberia National Security Agency (RLNSA), and his deputy were, unbeknownst to the defendants, working with the US Drug Enforcement Agency as undercover agents.
"During the last decade, drug trafficking organizations based in South America have increasingly used countries along or near the West African coast as trans-shipment hubs for importing massive quantities of cocaine to be later distributed in Europe or elsewhere within Africa," the indictment said.
Seven of the defendants, whose nationalities include Sierra Leone, Russia and Ghana, were arrested in Liberia. Another suspect, of Colombian origin, was arrested in Spain and remains in Spanish custody. A ninth Colombian suspect and alleged co-conspirator, Marcel Acevedo Sarmiento, remains a fugitive.