"He Is Only Buying Sympathy from Criminal Investigators At The Detriment of Liberians" - Dr. Eugene Shannoh, Former Lands, Mines and Energy Minister
"His sole intent is to portray the entire Liberian nation as corrupt as possible in the vein of winning the sympathy of Canadian investors whose monies, in the millions, he has stolen on one hand; and on the other hand, swaying the attention of Canadian law enforcement authorities who are investigating and chasing him for his past deals," the voice of the former Liberian Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy Dr. Eugene Shannon.
The press statement, additionally, was signed by E. C. B. Jones, John C. Nylander, Abert T. Chie, Gesler E. Murray, Carlton Miller, Emmanuel O. Sherman, among others.
This singular assertion by Dr. Shannon echoed and reverberated every second in a cramped conference room when he addressed the press over the weekend in Monrovia.
The man he was referring to is Mr. Leonard Lindstrom, founder of Liberty International Group; a company licensed in 2004 by the Liberian government to explore gold and diamonds.
In a recent book released by Mr. Lindstrom titled: Corruption 101 - The Liberian Style, the author accused former officials of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) of extorting money from him during his business sojourn from 2004 to 2009; blaming them for his business quandaries. Not only did he accuse the former government officials of corruption, he accused every sector of the Liberian nation as corrupt.
Citing a newspaper quote by 2011 Nobel Laureate Laymah Gbowee, Mr. Lindstrom accused President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf herself as corrupt. The former government officials would not admit that their press conference was intended to protect their credibility, though all indications pointed to this.
"Although we are hurt as a nation to be accused of corruption by someone whom is himself being chased for stealing millions of US Dollars, the intent of this press conference is not only to prove our innocence or glorify his baseless accusations, we also hope to save investors and law enforcement officers time and energy that what Lindstrom has alleged is far from the truth. His intent is only to find an alibi in distracting criminal investigation against him; and finding excuses for the mess he has created for himself after eating, embezzling and mismanaging millions of United States Dollars entrusted to his care by Canadian Investors," the former MLME officials stated in clear terms.
For Lindstrom, his book comes as a result of five long years of frustration and immense economic loss for his company, Liberty Gold and Diamonds, as a result of repeated cheating, manipulation, and extortion by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy. He accused the Liberian government disrespecting a court decision in March 2011 ordering it to reinstate and extend Liberty mineral exploration licenses.
In 2009, MLME cancelled Liberty's mining exploration licenses for what it called consistent default in paying government taxes, but the court in Liberia ruled that the company's licenses be reinstated and extended on grounds that due processes were not followed by the Ministry. But the court's decision is yet to be seen.
While the former MLME officials insisted of not questioning and flouting the decision of the court, they believe they believed every laid down process needed to have cancelled Liberty's licenses.
"It will interest you to know that between 2004 and the end of 2005, Mr. Lindstrom and his Liberty Group of Companies were in compliance with the rules and regulations of the MLME, paid the required license fees and implemented their work program.
Mr. Lindstrom and his companies made no discovery of gold or diamonds during this period. At the end of this period, he had no complaint against the MLME," they noted.
According to them, by 2009, Mr. Lindstrom begun to face problems with the ministry because he could no longer pay government license fees and unable to implement the work programme as enshrined in his Mineral Exploration Agreement. They claimed Lindstrom could neither pay his office rent nor employees any longer.
"As a government, our decision was simple. Mr. Lindstrom possessed six exploration licenses, fees for which he could no longer pay to the Liberian government. We held discussions, and after persistent pleads from him and the management of Liberty Gold for an extended grace period due to their inability to make payment on their arrears to GOL and citing the global financial crisis of 2008, the Ministry granted extensions on those properties on which Liberty Gold had conducted some appreciable geologic work and excluded those on which minimum geologic exploration program had been conducted.
"We terminated three. He was left with three, two of which he paid fees against. We generously granted him extension for these two licenses, so to allow him implement the Exploration Work Program within a given timeframe. We realized that nothing was done and so we terminated these two again. There was still one license, we couldn't do anything about because we truthfully realized that he had not used it yet.
"The biggest question is 'were we wrong to terminate the contract of a man who failed to pay our taxes; a man whom we realized was a fraudster and under investigation in his country?' We say No! We did the right thing by terminating his licenses. Not only was it good for our country, especially just emerging from wars, it was also good for investors and criminal investigators in Canada whose monies and times he was and still is wasting by finding excuses and blaming Liberia for his criminal acts. We sympathize with them and are willing to help them with their investigation against this criminal investor," they added.