Liberia: Govt Loses NHA Case

11 November 2019

Liberian prosecutors have again failed to prove multiple charges of alleged corruption against officials from the Nation Housing Authority (NHA), barley three months after the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led - government also lost another big corruption case against state officials.

In a ruling Friday, 8 November in Monrovia, Criminal Court "C" Judge A. Blamo Dixon acquitted suspended NHA Managing Director DuannahSiryon and his two deputies Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Isaac Roberts of all charges, saying the indictment against them is "fatally defective."

"The Indictment drawn against the defendants is fatally defective. The prosecution did not prove the essential elements of the alleged multiple crimes levied against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt," the Judge rules.Judge Dixon says the Court refuses to hold the defendants because there is no probable cause for them to be held for the alleged charges preferred against them.

Mr. Siryon was NHA managing director, working along with Mr. Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, NHA Deputy Director for Administration and Mr. Isaac Roberts, NHA Deputy Director for Technical Services when they were arrested, investigated and charged.They were arrested following some alleged transactions that also involved one Augustine Weah, an alleged chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies and Emmanuel Tapsoba, a coordinator of Burkina Fasso - based company GELPAZ-IMMO.

The NHA officials were accused of alleged economic sabotage, theft of property, bribery, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy, all of which they have since denied during trial.Their charges came amid a claim of receiving alleged US$80,000 bribe from executives of GELPAZ - IMMO that came to Liberia to do feasibility studies in connection to the construction of thousands of housing units for which the Liberian government and GELPAZ-IMMO had reached agreement.

In the trial, the prosecution played an audio in which it is purported that the suspended NHA boss and his two deputies Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Isaac Roberts were in heated argument over inequitable distribution of the alleged US$80,000 bribe.However it was difficult for our staff to understand what was being argued in the audio due to the noise in the recording.

Tapsoba is alleged to have given Mr. Tugbeh US$80,000 as bribe, while the latter is also alleged to have given US$20,000 to Augustine Weah for safe keeping for delivery to NHA officials.But Mr. Siryon denied receiving any money from any executive of GELPAZ - IMMO that came to Liberia to conduct feasibility studies on the project in Monrovia.

Thus Judge Dixon rules that the prosecution cannot establish a prima faci case against the defendants for the alleged multiple crimes in the absences of BenaoBazonon, co-defendants Emmanuel Tapsoba and Augustine Weah, including the president and CEO of GELPAZ - IMMO, SA, Zinimanegre Alain Zoungrana.Judge Dixon therefore set the defendants free and discharges them from further answering to the charges levied against them.

This lost in a government fight against alleged corruption comes after the Criminal Court "C", then presided over by Judge Peter W. Gbenewelleh in July similarly acquitted several Liberian officials indicted in 2016 on account of a Global Witness' claim of receiving bribes.

The British watchdog group had alleged that Sable Mining, a British firm, had offered the Liberian officials bribes for a concession contract.

Key contentions in prosecution's argument in that case included claims that Sable Mining gave bribes totaling US$950,000 to Liberian officials including lawmakers to insert Section 75 in the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) Draft Act to give the company undue advantage over mineral deposits at the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa.The case involved former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Grand Cape Mount County Sen. Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, Nigerian national Chris Onanuga, Dr. Richard Tolbert, and several other past and present officials.On 30 July this year, Judge Gbenwelweh said the defendants were not guilty of the crimes charged, climaxing a major economic sabotage trial that commenced during former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's term and extended into the regime of President George Manneh Weah

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