The Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) has released the second in a series of Assets declaration findings in which three officials of the Liberian government have been found to have 'unexplained' wealth.
The LACC Chairperson Frances Johnson Alison on Friday stated that the commission booked Mr. Stephen Yekeson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Public Works for unexplained wealth and material omission in his asset declaration process.
The LACC states that its asset verification team uncovered US$303,590.00 (Three hundred and three thousand five hundred and ninety United States Dollars) paid to three separate bank accounts of Mr. Yekeson outside of his official monthly salary of L$14,137.50 (Fourteen thousand two hundred and thirty seven Liberian dollars) and special allowance of US$2250 (Two thousand two hundred and fifty United States Dollars).
"Mr. Yekeson states that on July 30, 2012 cash deposits into his Ecobank accounts were aggregated of US$5,000 repayment from Peter Scott and Ademola Abimbola.
He affirmed that US$ 23,000 cash deposit from cash withdrawals not expended and US$ 1,500 represents cash deposit from salary savings account," states the LACC.
Cllr. Alison addressing journalists on Friday states that the LACC found that Mr. Yekeson's explanation did not support the various deposits into his account holdings at Guarantee Trust Bank (Liberia) Limited from his assets declaration filed on 3 April, 2012 with the LACC.
"Furthermore, the assets verification team discovered several cash deposits made on behalf of Mr. Yekeson in his savings account at the GTBank as follows:
05/02/11 cash deposit by Zaza... ... .US$39,700
05/09/11 cash deposit by Yekeson... ... ... 9,100
06/07/11 cash deposit by Yekeson... ... ... 10,000
06/2811 Cash deposit by Zaza... ... ... ... ... ... ... 9,850
09/09/11 cash deposit by Yekeson... ... ... ... .10,000
11/16/11 cash deposit by Soko... ... ... ... ... ... ... .5,000
06/08/12 cash deposit by Yekeson... ... ... ... .10,000
05/28/13 cash deposit by Saah... ... ... ... ... ... ... .6,000
The commission notes that the second omission by Mr. Yekeson is his current account with Guarantee Trust Bank (Liberia) Limited.
"Deposits made on behalf of Mr. Yekeson to his current account are the following
Guarantee Trust Bank Liberia Limited
09/03/11 cash deposit by Zaza... ... ... ... ... ... US$14,940
10/13/11 cash deposit by zaza... ... ... ... ... ... 20,000
01/20/12 UBA CHQ#150879 IFO Stephen Deposit 10,000
04/05/12 cash deposit by Yekeson... ... ... ... ... ... ... 10,000
06/08/12 cash deposit by Soko... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. 10,000
09/18/12 GTB CHQ# 176371 deposited... ... ... ... .. 20,000
10/25/12 cash deposit by Soko Slip# 47371... ... ... .. 5,000
04/13/13 cash deposit by Saah... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. 6,000
05/08/13 cash deposit by Saah... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .. 8,000
Subtotal US$103,940 "
"Deposits made on behalf of Mr. Stephen Yekeson to his Ecobank Liberia Account are the following:
23 July, 2012 cash deposit by Zaza ... ... ... ... .. US$30,000
25 January 2012 cash transfer BOART LONGYEAR 70,000
Grand Total US$303,5090.00"
Blamoh Nelson's unexplained Wealth:
The LACC also found that former Internal Affairs minister Blamoh Nelson omitted his real estate list during his declaration to the LACC. LACC boss Alison during a news conference on Friday told journalists that Mr. Nelson held a series of cash deposits to his accounts at three banks totaling US$105,000.
"During the course of his assets declaration, the LACC task team observed, the omission of his real property list on his asset declaration form and also uncovered a series of cash deposits to his account at three banks," she states.
"The total amount deposited between Mr. Nelson's accounts totaled US$105,000. The respective banks and associated deposits are as follows: 20th November, 2011 LBDI US$50,000; 19th January 2012, US$5,000; 28th June, 2012, US$5,000."
"International Bank Liberia Ltd. On the 19th of June 2012, deposit of US$7,000, 29th June, US$5,000 and August 20, 2012, US$ 13,000; EcobankK: 28th September 2012, US$20,000, total, US$105,000."
The LACC boss said the asset verification team provided Mr. Nelson an opportunity to respond to its findings and he provided the below responses: "That the omission of his real property was an oversight and that he provided the value of his real property as indicated in paragraph 6 of schedule D of his assets declaration."
Continued Cllr. Alison: " That the US$50,000 was a joint cash reserve by him and his wife for contingency to start a business after the 2011 elections. This was a single one-time on-the-spot deposit."
The LACC in its report states that further written explanation by Mr. Nelson, indicates that portion of the deposit mentioned came from a six-year terminal bonus honorarium and incidental he received from the Liberian senate in 2011.
"On September 20, 2013, he further stated that the US 50,000 deposited in his LBDI account was an accumulation of cash from both personal income and family loan which was saved over a period of five years. "
"That the US$20,000 was part of an amount accumulated while he was serving as senator over many months of preparation for the 2011 senatorial elections," states the LACC.
"This was a single transaction deposit. He further noted that all other deposits are mixed results of personal income and his 20-20 commodity trading business, which he started in 2011 in Grand Kru County, that the US$7,000 was an interbank transaction; the response failed to mention the earning source.
The anti graft asset verification team says it reviewed all submitted supporting documents against the written statements submitted by Mr. Nelson thereby reaching the the below conclusions:
"The bank statements of 20-20 commodity trading shows transactions from 2012 to 2013 they do not explain the US$50,000 one time cash deposit made in November of 2011. The business registration documents of 20-20 commodity trading had no connection with the written statements provided by Mr. Nelson," states the commission in its latest report.
"The business registration was done in May of 201; the transaction in question occurred in November of 2011. Mr. Nelson's initial statements on September 5, 2013, mentioned that the US$50,000 was joint cash reserve to start a business after the 2011 elections, unfortunately, this statement coupled with the newest information given on September 20, 2013 does not explain how he earned the one time US$ 50,000 cash deposit."
The LACC further found after a review of a statement submitted on September 20, 2013 by Mr. Nelson, attempted to align the US$50,000 deposit to his terminal earnings at the senate and the remaining from personal income and family loan, but the commission's review of his record shows only US$10,000 was withdrawn on October 6, 2011.
Reacting to the LACC report on state radio ELBC on Friday evening, former Minister Nelson said he was confused by the LACC's explanation of his assets verification justifications given the commission.
"I listened to the Chair of the LACC explaining the information that I have given them. It seems to me that they captured the information but the interpretation they're giving to it is what is confusing me," he said.
Continued Nelson: "When they talk about income that I got from my business, income that I got from my job, I don't know what other source that anybody could be thinking about; it is confusing to me. I thought I provided the explanation and she indicated what I have told them. "
"It was just a typo error; that cannot be a significant thing to sight. I thought I explained precisely how I earned my income. The sources I gave them, those are the sources from which it came from, my business, my income... what other explanation can anyone give?"
Police Comptroller's unexplained wealth
Meanwhile, the LACC also found that Mr. Varney Ali Sheriff, Chief of Finance at the Liberia National Police was found to have unexplained wealth evident in his account and omission of his real estate.
The LACC states in its report that Mr. Sheriff declared a total monthly income in the amount of US$704 but in a single month he deposited US$33,850.00 (Thirty three thousand eight hundred and fifty United States Dollars) cash into his LBDI account.
"It is astounding that Mr. Sheriff with such a meager income and without another declared source of income would deposit such huge amount of money into his personal bank account," states the LACC.
The LACC noted that prior to Mr. Sheriff's declaration, he served the police for 15months as chief of finance; his monthly income over this period totaled US$10,560 but however acquired assets well above his declared income.
"When questioned about this cash inflow, Mr. Sheriff claimed that he is the financial secretary of his family and that the family makes collections and for initiatives such as palava-hut construction," states the LACC.
"He handled those collections and he made onward deposit to his personal account but he failed to mention how much contribution he collected from the family."
The LACC said its asset declaration team also discovered that Mr. Sheriff owns real estate far greater than his fifteen months income as police chief of finance. The LACC states that during the interviews it became aware of an undeclared real estate owned by Mr. Sheriff.
"He acted smartly by splitting the real estate into various high walls, erecting artificial demarcation to the extent that the staircase of one of the buildings falls behind the walls of the other property, so as to create an impression that the property ownership is shared," states the LACC in its report released on Friday.
"The LACC concludes that Mr. Sheriff's explanation lacks the substatce necessary to support US$33,850 cash deposit and that his real estate physically verified by our team puts him in the category of unexplained accumulation and material omission.
Some blatantly refused declaration
The LACC states that during the course of phase II asset verification was carried out for seventy-seven (77) officials from sixteen government institutions and of this number, three were booked for unexplained/questionable wealth accumulation, twenty two (22) officials assets were not verified because they refused to cooperate with the commission, twenty two (22) were incomplete verification because of outstanding issues, five could not be verified because declarants could not be located and twenty five (25) officials' assets were verified and found to be truly stated.
The LACC states that officials who deliberately refused to cooperate with the LACC team to declare their assets despite notices to them to appear include: T. Nelson Williams, Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Mr. Pete Norman, Vice President, Nation Oil Company of Liberia, Brownie Samukai, Minister of National Defense, Police Director Chris Massaquoi, Freddie Taylor, deputy Minister, Ministry of Justice, Benedict F. Sannoh, deputy Minister, ministry of Justice.
Others are: Darlington George, Deputy Commissioner, Liberia National Police and Miekee Gray, Deputy Commissioner, Liberia National Police.
Officials who truthfully declared
Officials whose asset declaration were verified and certified as truthfully declared include: Finance Minister Amara Konneh, Education minister Etmonia Tarpeh, Sebastian Muah, deputy finance minister, Boom M. Wilson, Comptroller and Accountant general, ministry of finance and Abraham S. Kromah, Deputy Police Director.
Others include: Former Public Works Minister, Samuel Kofi Woods, Vivian A. Cherue, deputy minister, ministry of health and social welfare, and Mr. Randolph A. McClain President and CEO of NOCAL.
Officials whose assets declaration process could not be completed within the reporting period due to outstanding issues yet to be resolved include: Justice minister Christiana Tah, Deputy police chief Rose Stryker, Angelique Weeks, Chairperson Liberia Telecommunications Authority and Emmanuel N. Reeves, Deputy Commissioner, Liberia Maritime Authority.
The LACC following its findings recommends that appropriate administrative and/ or legal actions be taken against those who disregarded the assets declaration process, those booked for unexplained wealth accumulation and wealth omission.