17 March 2014

Liberia: Urey Claims Assault, Manhandling

But LACC Excepts When the former Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Clemenceau Urey admitted to allegation that he bribed some members of the 52nd national legislature, perhaps he did so in good faith.

However, soon after his statement, there were a number of requests including the one from former Interim President Dr. Amos Sawyer, who suggested that Mr. Urey and others connected to the allegation of bribery, be investigated.

According to the Liberian Penal Code, Section 10.5, bribery is a criminal offense.

Last week, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) invited Mr. Urey, as well as former Montserrado County Representative Alomiza Ennos Barr and others for investigation to authenticate whether they took bribe to pass certain concessions.

But during a recent statement at the Capitol, Mr. Urey, a renowned businessman and partisan of the ruling Unity Party said US$50,000 was given as 'lobby fees' to the 52nd National Legislature to pass certain concession.

On March 14, 2014, Mr. Urey issued a release to complain that he was assaulted and manhandled by some agents of LACC at his office.

"This statement goes out to inform the peace loving people of Liberia and the general public of an incident that occurred on today, March 14, 2014 at about 11:00 a.m. at my offices located on Tubman Boulevard, Sinkor, Monrovia, when agents of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), in their attempt to forcibly take me to the LACC, assaulted and manhandled me," Urey, in a letter addressed to the LACC, claimed.

He said he went to a nearby office to conduct some business, and on his way back, he was approached by three unidentified men who informed him that he was wanted at the LACC office. According to him, he inquired if they had any document or warrant of arrest in their possession and they responded in the negative.

"I then requested permission to enter my office with the intention of taking my medication and obtaining my phone to call my lawyer, but they refused and blocked the entrance to my office gate, thereby preventing me from entering my office. I told them that they had no right to prevent me from entering my office building or seeking advice from my counsel," the former oil company chair stated.

Continuing, he added "I also informed them that the whole process was improper as I had not been charged of committing any crime and that there was no writ of arrest to forcibly take me. They then began to assault me and pulled me from my office gate in an attempt to force me into their vehicle. I then sent to my office for my phone and called my lawyer who advised me to meet him at the LACC office."

Urey said when he arrived at the offices of LACC, he was told to prepare a statement because the LACC had information that he was leaving the country on Friday, March 14, 2014.

He said during his first visit to the LACC, his counselor James E. Pierre informed the investigation Board that he would prepare a written statement from which they could question and seek clarification from his client, because he was going on a medical trip to South Africa and would not be back until March 22, 2014.

In the meantime, he would ask his partner, Counselor Oswald Tweh, to work with Urey in ensuring that the statement was prepared and delivered to the LACC, which Counselor Tweh consented to do.

Urey: "I prepared the draft statement on yesterday, March 13, 2014. Just as I was about to take the statement to Counselor Tweh, I got a call from one of the agents who inquired as to whether the statement promised had been prepared. I informed him that working on the statement was priority for me. That I was anxious to put this matter behind me, because I had already cancelled a business trip to Nairobi, Kenya and would have to cancel others if this matter was not resolved quickly."

Therefore, Urey said he told the agent he had presented a draft copy of the statement to his lawyer, Counselor Tweh, and that he had cancelled his business trip to Nairobi and would submit to the LACC investigation since it was a matter of urgency.

"I assured him (the agent) that I would present a copy of this statement to him as soon as my lawyer had reviewed same. To my utmost surprise, the three LACC agents appeared at my office, as stated earlier, and in their attempt to forcibly take me to their office, assaulted and manhandled me," Urey stressed.

Apparently unhappy about the assault and the manhandling, Mr. Urey, a defeated senatorial candidate said, "I would like to bring to the attention of the public that when I was cited by the Audit Committee of the National Legislature, I fully cooperated with that body by immediately and promptly appearing before it. Under oath, I told them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In like manner, I answered the call of the LACC as soon as I was cited. I intend to cooperate with the LACC until this matter is resolved."

Hence, Urey added that he could not comprehend why the LACC is taking such action against him as an individual who was working with members of the Board of NOCAL, the Management and others who were motivated by their burning desire to seek the National Interest.

Mr. Urey also stated that he took a bankrupt company with US$250.00 in its bank account, employees unpaid for more than six months, a domestic debt of about half a million U.S. dollars, to a bank balance of US$31, 190,000.08 before he was removed.

"I did not personally benefit from the transaction being investigated; Liberia did! There is nowhere in the audit report showing that I converted a diem from NOCAL to my personal use," he argued.

He further argued that a public corporation is not run by one individual, but a board and a management, who act in consultation with higher authorities, noting that "the action of the agents of the LACC is unacceptable. I believe that the LACC, its agents and investigators are under a duty to be civil and courteous to all who are being investigated or who are aiding an investigation. Its agents should not be over zealous in executing their orders and infringe on and violate the rights of others."

However, when contacted, the Public Affairs office of the LACC dismissed the assault and manhandling claim, but admitted that the officers were mandated to escort Mr. Urey to the LACC for questioning.

The LACC Public Affairs office said Mr. Urey appeared along with his Lawyer Cllr. James A.A. Pierre Jr., who made representation on behalf of his client.

According to the LACC, Section 10.4 of the Act that established the Commission gives it the authority to cite or effect an arrest based on cause. It said Mr. Urey is amongst several others, including former Montserrado County Representative Ennos Barr, who according to a GAC audit report, is alleged to have collected US$50,000 and distributed same to some of his colleagues.

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