by Haresh Karamchandani
We had a break-in a few days ago at our home. The detectives from the Burglary Unit of the Liberia National Police were able to apprehend the robber the same day. He was caught red handed with our empty laptop bag and my wallet.
The robber then led the detectives to the person who he had “sold” the laptops to, and they were able to recover the Macbook Pro laptops and my mobile phone. I thought this was really great, but when the cops told me that the robber escaped from their custody while they were interrogating the other suspect, I was very disappointed to say the least.
The detective, a young chap, who I would like to commend here, was a brave and hardworking man. He promised me that he would catch the robber and produce him to me. I promised that I would personally reward him if he was successful. 2 days later my doorbell rang very early in the morning. I went out to the balcony to check who was frantically ringing our doorbell and was pleasantly surprised to see detective Randall with the handcuffed robber! I wearily gave them some transport cash and told Randall that I would come over later on to the police headquarters to give him his reward.
Today morning, I was invited by the police to come over to the station along with the laptops and mobile phone and wallet. They said that they wanted to present the robber to a magistrate and have him committed to prison. I agreed to cooperate and was at the police station at 9:30 AM.
They took away the recovered items from me and told me that after the robber is committed I would have to sign for the items at the court. They wanted the items to be used as evidence.
We all proceeded to the court house, which is walking distance from the police headquarters. The robber was handcuffed and kept pleading to me to forgive him. I told him that the matter was beyond my control and the police and court proceedings will have to be adhered to. I lectured him that once he serves his sentence he should come to me and I would offer him some work. I also gave him some cash so that he could fill up his starving belly. He was not given any food for 2 days.
There was another case being heard and argued when we arrived at the court. We were told that we would have to wait till that was done with. I enjoyed listening to the arguments and counter arguments which looked like a scene from a Bollywood movie. The case was “Government of Liberia” vs “8 Ivorian criminals who were needed to be extradited”. The defense lawyer was amazing. He argued that the extradition treaty was signed way back in 1975 between the two governments, but the treaty should have been confirmed or accepted by the senate, which has not been done till date. He argued that the treaty was not valid and therefore the criminals cannot be extradited. The judge continued to smile and listen patiently. The final straw was when he argued that the Government lawyer does not even have a valid license to practice. He then fished out his own valid license and General Revenue account receipt. The Government lawyer walked out embarrassed and the judge adjourned the case. The criminals were sent back to prison. Apparently they have been there for 5 years already!!??!!
Then it was time for my case. I was asked to follow the bailiff to the Magistrates office. While I was giving my statement, I heard a loud commotion and people shouting “Rogue, rogue!!” My heart skipped a beat. Was it “Smokey” the robber? Yes, it was indeed. This fellow is slippery. We rushed out to see what was happening and my fears were correct. Smokey had escaped, but the court security also ran out behind him to catch him. A few moments later, they came back with Smokey all handcuffed and huffing and puffing! What a relief.
I then went back to the Magistrate to complete the formalities. The writ of arrest was done, registered and they were ready to take him to South Beach prison. They demanded LD500 as “car fees”, I gave it to them. They demanded LD 350 for “registration” fees, I gave it to them. They demanded another LD350 as “typing writ fees”, I gave it to them. In contrast “Smokey” begged me for food money, I gave him LD100 and he was so grateful.
The formalities were completed, or that is what I thought. I asked for my items and the Magistrate said “sorry, that has to be left at the court, it is considered FOC, Fruit of Crime, and will remain in our custody till the case is over, till the criminal is sentenced!” I went livid with rage. How should I respond to this “honorable” gentleman who flaunted a US$1,000.00 watch and other expensive jewelry? I kept my cool and asked him for a private session. He asked all his people to leave the office.
I then asked him what he wanted to permit my items to be taken back with me. I told him I could sign any bond to say that the items would be produced as evidence whenever required. I asked him there should be some way. He knew he had my balls in his hands. He said what can you offer?
I told him US$100.00. He then took his expensive pen and wrote on a sheet of paper… 200. He said I should take some pictures of the items and get them printed and they would put it in the file. Easy as that.
I had the following choices:
- Walk out of his chamber and go and meet the Chief Justice or Chief of Police and hope that they intervene and help.
- Agree to pay this daylight robber and take my belongings and get out of there.
I opted for option 2.
What would you have done? What should I do, now that I have my items? Should I take this up with the higher authorities? Should I write a letter to the Chief Justice? Should I go to the press?
I asked this question to my banker friend. He advised, no. This is Liberia. You may need this honorable person sometime in the future. And anyways nothing will really come out of it. This is Liberia.
I asked this question to my NGO expatriate friend. He agreed with my banker friend and further went on to say that it will be a waste of time. He said we are business people and should not create animosities.
I asked this question to my driver, Morris. He narrated the following to me: A few nights ago a robber tried to enter his window. He was awake and heard the movement. He got up armed with his cutlass and hid near the window for the robber to break-in so that he could chop off his arms or even his head. Unfortunately his wife heard the robber and shouted “Rogue, rogue!” and the robber fled.
This is Liberia!
I will sleep peacefully tonight knowing well that the robber is at South Beach Prison. Or will I really sleep peacefully? Knowing well that there are bigger robbers at large roaming free, extorting money from poor citizens?