Former Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LRPC) Managing Director, Mr. T. Nelson Williams and ex-Commence Minister Miatta Beysolow are among several individuals indicted in a fraud scheme that allegedly deprived government of millions of United States dollars during the sale and distribution of the Japanese oil grant valued at US$13,083, 350 (the equivalent of one billion, one hundred million Japanese Yen) donated by the Japanese Government.The scheme involved 15,000 metric tons of petroleum products that were intended to help government in its economic and social development efforts, which prosecution put the total amount collected from the sale as up to US$5,764, 110.84.The products were donated under oil grant arrangement with a provision which was conveyed in an exchange of notes dated March 8, 2011, between the governments of Japan and Liberia.Mr. Steve Fiahn, former Director, Division of Price Analysis and Marketing at the Ministry of Commence (MOC), as well as, Mr. Aaron J. Wheagar, Deputy Manager for Operations and implementing person for the Japanese oil grant at the LPRC, and the Aminata & Sons Incorporated through its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Siaka Turay, were others also charged in the indictment by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County.The nine counts against the five defendants include economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation, and violation of the required Public Procurement Concession and Commission (PPCC) procedures and processes.However, one of the defendants, Aaron J. Wheagar, has been arrested and detained at the Monrovia Central Prison for his failure to secure a bond, while the other defendants are still at large.Lawyers representing the defendants were seen yesterday at the Temple of Justice trying to secure a single bond for all of the defendants to prevent the others from being arrested and detained.The indictment alleges that in August 2011, the defendants approved and implemented the determination and set up a fraudulent concessionary price of US$687.40 per metric ton for the monetization of the Japanese oil grant.The actual quantity of metric tons of the grant petroleum products, the document claims, should have been 12,404,040, which the defendants should have used to determine and set up the concessionary price to be US$831,811.24 for the sale and distribution of the products.But the defendants set up a fraudulent concessionary price of US$687.41 per metric ton, which they allegedly used in the monetization of the oil grant.“The defendants deprived the government of the amount of US$1,806, 811.14, which is the difference between the amounts of US$10,300, 988.14 that should have been deposited in the grant at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL),” court records claim.The defendants reportedly deposited the actual amount of US$8, 504, 177.00, at the CBL. “The defendants in their criminal efforts and schemes exercised unauthorized control over the difference thereby converting same to their use and benefits,” the indictment added.The Ministry of Commence, the document said, being the custodian of the oil grant and with responsibility to ensure the distribution and sale of the products, executed a scheme between the LPRC, MOC and Aminata & Sons without due regard to the PPCC bidding process.“They created and provided the opportunity for individuals and or business entities to exploit and abuse the distribution and sale of the oil grant. They also acted as individuals with criminal motive through a conspiracy scheme,” the indictment claims, adding “they are abusive and unmindful of their functionary duties to the government.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Six farmers were successful in their legal challenge of the President’s revocation of their leases for lands at Seafield and No 40 Village, West Coast Berbice; but three months after that challenge, they continue to wait on court costs, since Government has appealed the Acting Chief Justice’s ruling in favour of two of the six plaintiffs.The farmers contend that, in November 2014, former President Donald RamotarActing Chief Justice Roxane George, SChad granted them 50-year leases for State land located in the rear of Number 40 Village, West Coast Berbice. The Mahaica/Mahaicony/Abary Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA) had cancelled the leases last year, and this had led to the farmers filing legal actions challenging that cancellation.After President Granger had cancelled the leases, the farmers again filed court action, and were successful in their challenge against the revocation.After consideration of the arguments put forward by both sides, acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, on August 8 ruled that the farmers’ leases constitute property under Article 142 of the Constitution, and that President David Granger’s revocation of those leases amounted to depriving the applicants of property without compensating them, as noted in the Constitution. She had also determined that the revocation was “unlawful, null & void.”The plaintiffs were Brian George and his daughter; Tiffany Hubbard and Vaughn Aaron; Joylyn, Gratien and Herman Nicholson.However, Government has, through the Attorney General’s Chambers, appealed the CJ’s decision in regard to Brian George and Tiffany Hubbard.According to the law firm representing the farmers, Mohabir A. Nandlall & Associates, the AG did not contest the acting Chief Justice’s decision relating to the four Nicholsons. Nandlall’s firm, however, contends that court costs should still be paid to its clients, even though the appeal was filed during the latter part of the six-week timeframe in which notices of such appeals should be tendered.In a document seen by this publication, Nandlall wrote the Attorney General onAttorney General Basil WilliamsOctober 4, appealing for the awarded court costs to be paid to the principal claimants Brian George and Joylyn Nicholson, but, to date, the costs have not been paid.Last August, the court had also granted to the applicants a conservatory order which prohibited the servants and/or agents of MMA/ADA or any other officer of the State from entering upon, remaining, occupying, or in any manner whatsoever interfering with the applicants’ quiet and peaceful possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the said lease, unless compensation, which is to be determined by the parties, is paid.Attorney for the claimants, Anil Nandlall, had stressed that at no time were the applicants afforded a hearing by any person or body or authority; hence they were not offered the opportunity to show justification why their leases should not have been cancelled.He further expressed that Chief Justice George had “rejected the arguments” advanced by Attorney-General Basil Williams, which posited that President Granger’s actions were immune from legal challenge, and that the applicants’ leases were invalid because they were not signed by President Donald Ramotar.