28 September 2008

Liberia: IAF Ordered Closed - But Management Differs

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Ben Donnie, has ordered the closure of the newly constructed "showroom" of the International Aluminum Factory (IAF) on the Tubman Boulevard in Monrovia.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at his Sinkor offices, Mr. Donnie disclosed that the closure of the company's showroom was based on deception by its management.

He revealed that prior to the construction of the building that is currently hosting the showroom, his agency was notified and as a result of the information provided, EPA issued the factory a permit but expressed surprise over the management's decision to have instead constructed an "assembly plant," something Mr. Donnie noted had not been part of agreement.

The EPA Director stressed that the false declaration by the IAF management to his agency has therefore necessitated the full application of laws governing the illegal action, warranting its management to face five years imprisonment or closure of the company with a discretional fine ranging between US1,000 to US$25,000 imposed.

He noted that the Justice Ministry has already been notified about the agency's decision, underscoring that it was a crime for individuals or businesses to mislead government at the detriment of the Liberian people.

Mr. Donnie further pointed out that the construction of the assembly plant in the city, especially among community dwellers, could pose health hazards to nearby residents.

When contacted, the management of the IAF described the action by the EPA as "storage," adding that they could not remember when any representative from EPA had raised issues about the plant.

Mr. Marwan Eid who claimed to be Manager of IAF, explained that his company has been operating in the country for the past 30 years and has since duly followed government's regulations, with no breach in any law.

He told journalists that the building contained only a showroom and warehouse for customers and not an assembly plant.

During a tour of the IAF facilities, however saw no trace of the assembly plant in question, other than apartments and storage rooms and the showroom. Mr. Eid expressed fear that such action by the EPA had the tendency to instill fears in business partners who are investing into the economy.

He used the occasion to reveal that over US$3 million had been invested into construction and furnishing of the showroom, including the various apartments, with ongoing construction of two additional buildings on the premises.

It can be recalled that during the 1980s, the IAF, under the management of Mr. Ezzat Eid who later became President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), was rated one of Liberia's best business partners, having constructed its own factory and other buildings in Monrovia, as opposed to others who had largely rented buildings of other individuals.

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