MONROVIA — A Monrovia court has sentenced Arthur Chan-Chan, a former agent of the National Security Agency, to 25 years in prison for human trafficking—the highest penalty yet for a convict of the crime in Liberia. The longest sentence until now was 20 years – following Liberia’s revision of the trafficking law making the minimum sentence for trafficking 20 years.
Chan-Chan’s sentence comes almost one week after 10 of the 12 jurors who heard the case found him guilty of the charge. Chan-Chan, 57, is the first person with a direct link to the Liberian government to be convicted and sentenced for the crime.
“The court hereby affirms and confirms the guilty verdict of the trial jurors handed down on January 12, 2023, and defendant Arthur Chan-Chan is hereby sentenced to 25 years imprisonment,” said Judge Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court “A” in his ruling on Wednesday.
Judge Willie said state prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Chan-Chan, who was assigned to the Roberts International Airport had abused his position by trafficking two women to Oman under the deception of giving them jobs in a t-shirt factory, with the benefits of free housing, education, and healthcare.
“Even though the defendant denied ever taking money from the victims, he admitted to assisting them by taking their photos, which enabled them to travel to Dubai,” said Willie. “In view of this admission that the defendant interacted with the victims at the airport, and the fact that he passed them through the various checkpoints in the terminal without them being checked is an illegal act and not the term of reference of an agent.”
Aside from sentencing Chan-Chan, Judge Wille also fined him $US100,000 and ordered he pay the two victims $US5750 each.
Cllr. Sennay Carlor, Chan-Chan’s lawyer, said he would appeal the conviction with the Supreme Court.
From his dock seat Chan-Chan listened intently to Wille as the judge told him his fate. He maintained his innocence in an FPA/NN interview afterwards.
“They are sending me to die,” he said, sitting in handcuffs outside the courtroom. “25 years, at the age of 57, that means you are just going bury me for crime I did not commit. Those who plotted these stuffs against me just for their economic gains, they will face the wrath of the Lord. The whole case is being sponsored at a high-class level.”
Chan-Chan failed to provide full details about whom he was referring to but did claim that Randolph Kaye, the police officer who investigated him in connection with the matter, is one of the conspirators. Kaye testified in the two-month trial for the state and corroborated the victims’ testimonies.
“You, an investigator, told the court that the woman said that’s child support,” Chan-Chan said of the money that Eve Kpadeh, wife of Samuel Chan-Chan, admitted she received from the women. Samuel, who was indicted with Arthur, his nephew, but he is believed to be in the Middle East and out of reach of Liberian law for now.
“It simply indicates that my nephew gave them the $1200 that he alleged to me he gave to them to release the woman.”
Prosecutors say Samuel deceived the women and trafficked them to Oman with Arthur’s help. He was not prosecuted because Liberia’s law does not allow prosecutions in absentia. But Arthur claimed that Samuel bribed Kaye to prematurely end Eve’s investigation.
“Eve Kpadeh, she’s here,” said Chan-Chan. “They called her, she admitted receiving money from the children. Princess Cooper, who they said recruited them, she’s here. She did not appear in court. Why didn’t they bring them to court to testify?”
But in an interview by phone, Kaye denied the allegations.
“Eve did not give me any money,” said Kaye. “Eve said the money was given to her for her children by her husband. The victim said your husband said we should give the money to you. The lady said that she did not tell her the purpose of the money.”
Kaye then defended their decision to release Eve. “There was nothing when it comes to human trafficking,” he said. “The first and foremost thing you should be in the know is whether this lady had any idea that this money was for human trafficking purpose. And we established that she had no idea. So, she was released.”
Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Liberia’s Acting solicitor General also justified Eve’s release in a phone interview. “She said she was not aware of the transaction. There was no way to have linked her to any consent.”
But Wesseh said investigations into the matter were unresolved.
It’s a wider conspiracy,” he said. “Police can still unearth other information. “It was never a plot against him,” Wesseh said of Chan-Chan’s claim that he was plotted against. “We proved that during trial. In as much as the jury brought down that the verdict means that we proved the charge beyond reasonable doubt.”
The effect of Chan-Chan’s revelations on the wider trafficking operation is still unknown, as the government celebrates yet another victory in its anti-human trafficking fight. The ruling could solidify Liberia’s zero tolerance campaign against human trafficking and put the country in good standing with the United States which closely monitors trafficking enforcement and can tie aid to a country’s efforts.
This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of its Investigating Liberia project. Funding was provided by the US Embassy in Monrovia. The funder had no say in the story’s content.