MONROVIA, Liberia – January’s landmark conviction of a former government security agent for human trafficking should have delivered $11,000 to his two victims, women who the court found were trafficked to Oman under false pretenses and suffered terrible abuse and deprivation as a result of his actions. Nearly two months on the women have received none of the money.
By FPA/New Narratives staff reporter
Liberia’s anti trafficking law, revised in 2021, allows the court to order the convicted person’s assets to be seized and sold to pay “restitution” to the victims. Criminal Court “A” sentenced the convicted man, Arthur Chan Chan, to 25 years in prison and ordered him to pay a $100,000 fine to government and $11,000 in total to the two women who testified against him in the case. The women’s restitution must be paid before the fine.
The issue was put on hold when Chan Chan lodged an appeal of his conviction. He remains in prison but the restitution and fine await the outcome of the appeal. No date has been set. However FPA/New Narratives inquiries suggest the court and Liberian authorities may not have secured Chan Chan’s assets to stop him from transferring them out of his name. Before Chan Chan lodged his appeal, a court official with whom FPA/NN spoke but refused to be quoted, was unaware the law allowed government to seize and sell the convicted man’s assets to pay the victims.
The official assured New Narratives that Chan Chan had no access to a phone inside the prison. But on February 5th Chan Chan’s Facebook page was updated. FPA/New Narratives is unable to confirm Chan Chan made the change.
News of the restitution order came as a surprise to the two victims. “We have received nothing,” said one of the victims at an interview at her Monrovia home. Victims’ asked that their names be withheld to protect them from intimidation by accused traffickers. The woman’s father said they were unaware of the court’s decision to award his daughter $6,000.
He said his daughter had no job and still suffered anxiety and nightmares from her ordeal which included 10 weeks in an Omani jail. The family is all sleeping in one room. “No place to sleep and she is not too well in the body. Her economic condition is not good.”
The second victim said she was unhappy at the news. “It does not make me feel good,” said the woman, who had been awarded $5000, by phone. “I feel secure, but where I am, it’s not my own place. If I get that money, I will put it in business, and pay for my rent.”
It is not known how much Chan Chan had in assets at the time of the conviction but during the trial the court heard that the former National Security Agent had taken $75 from each victim at Roberts International Airport to guide them past immigration and avoid red flags designed to catch trafficking victims. Chan Chan was only convicted in the trafficking of two women but the Anti-Trafficking Unit believes as many as 200 women may have been lured to Oman under the scheme. If Chan Chan took $75 from each one that would have netted him $15,000.
Chan Chan’s brother, Samuel, is alleged to have masterminded the scheme from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many women victims, including the two who testified against Chan Chan, have told FPA/New Narratives that they paid Samuel’s Paynesville-based wife, Eve Kpadeh, $400 to $500 each. That would have netted the pair approximately $90,000. Kpadeh has not been charged for her role.
Meanwhile Samuel Chan Chan remains at large. Last month Criminal Court A Judge Roosevelt Willie, responding to a request from Assistant Justice Minister Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, asked the Liberian police to issue an international arrest warrant for Chan Chan. The request said Chan Chan was living in the UAE.
“We are hopeful that if the International Arrest Warrant is issued against Defendant Chan Chan, it will lead to his arrest and repatriation to Liberia to face justice,” said Minister Wesseh’s request. Police did not respond by press time to a question about whether the arrest warrant had been issued.
Samuel Chan Chan’s online history tells the story of how he came to be in charge of the scheme. He appears to have first travelled to the Middle East in 2018 representing Liberia at the Model of Arab African Summit Fellows 2018 in Egypt. According to the networking site LinkedIn Chan Chan has been the CEO of a Liberian organization named the “Global Peace and Development Organization” since 2011.
Soon after that Egypt trip Chan Chan began posting online offering to send Liberian housemaids to the Middle East.
“Dear Jerry, I live in Liberia and i have more thank 20 maids in Liberia i need employer for than (sic),” he wrote in one post. “call me on whatpup or face book” he wrote, leaving his contact details.
Samuel last posted a picture of himself on Facebook in December 2020. At the time friends expressed surprise at not having seen him for a long time. He did not respond to their questions asking where he was. Samuel Chan Chan did not respond to FPA/New Narratives’ request for comment through Facebook messenger.
Meanwhile the two women in the case said they were frustrated at the government’s treatment of them. They are refusing to testify in any more trials. That may seriously impede the government’s ability to bring cases against accused traffickers. One victim’s father said he had been frustrated throughout the court process by the refusal of prosecutors and officials at the Ministry of Labor to engage with him. He claimed they had insisted on speaking only with his daughter, now 24, who he said was not well equipped to understand the process because of her young age. The father said he would have pursued the restitution payment had he been in the court and learned of it.
The two women said they were given no protection throughout the trial. One said she received an anonymous call offering her a bribe not to testify. They say they were expecting substantial government support in exchange for testifying but received little more than transportation money.
Adolphus Satiah, head of Secretariat of the Anti-Trafficking Unit at the Labor Minister, acknowledged help has not yet reached all the returnees but said the government, working with the International Organization for Migration, was finishing a second safe house. It would not provide cash but has provided returning women with psychosocial counseling and business management training.
This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the Investigating Liberia program. Funding was provided by the US Embassy in Liberia. The funder had no say in the story’s content.