Liberia: Prison Officer under Investigation for Alleged Bribery to Facilitate Jail Break

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KAKATA, Margibi County – A correction officer at the Kakata Central Prison in Margibi County, is being interrogated over a bribery saga allegedly involving him and an inmate. James Kollie, the inmate, has threatened to break jail and set free all of the prisoners. The officer’s name is withheld.

Defendant James Kollie and two others are standing trial for allegedly shooting dead a German national of the Big Joe Town Logging Company during an armed robbery incident in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County in February 2020. The other defendants are Emmanuel Kollie and Joseph Cole. They are being tried on murder, armed robbery and criminal conspiracy charges.

Investigation suggests that defendant James Kollie had earlier sent the correction officer an unspecified amount of money using a mobile money transfer network. It is also reported that prior to that, defendants’ lead lawyer Atty. Peter G. King , accompanied by another member of their defense team, Atty. Alfred Holmes and court officer Moses Garnett had on December 15, 2021, visited the prison to meet with their clients during which he gave a smart phone to them. This is contained in a formal complaint filed by prison superintendent Nelson Woah to assigned Judge Yarmie  Quiqui Gbeisay.

According to the complaint, the smart phone was given to the inmates in the visiting hall where they had been meeting with their legal representatives.  Woah said when he inquired from the detainees why were they given the phone, they said it was for the purpose of browsing the police website.

 A phone was again discovered in their cell a day after their meeting along with a power band. This time, they said they knew about the power band, but not the phone. When the prison superintendent further inquired about the phone, defendant James Kollie reportedly assaulted and spat on him, before openly threatening to break jail and set free everyone within the facility. The entire prison had become tense during the incident Atty. King has since apologized for their act.

The defendants, the report indicates, are notorious jail breakers who, in time past, absconded on numerous occasions while serving pretrial detentions on similar allegations. They have vowed to escape and join codefendants abroad who have remained at large since the fatal armed robbery incident. They were arraigned in February 2020. Their lawyers had filed a change of trial venue motion for the case to be transferred from Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to Kakata, Margibi County which was granted.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Minister for Litigation, Wesseh A. Wesseh has instructed correction officers to always keep James Kollie bound hand and foot.

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