Liberia: Salah Farhat Ordered to Restitute Over U.S.$1.3 Million

... Stolen from Ezzat Eid's Tayo Motors Company

Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court 'C' at the Temple of Justice on Monday, April 6 ordered two Lebanese businessmen, Salah and his son, Tamer Farhat to restitute (payback) the amount of US$1,370,390.60, after declaring them guilty of the three criminal charges levied against them by another Lebanese businessman, Ezzat Eid, majority shareholder of Tayo Motors, Liberia.

In his judgment, Gbeisay said," Based on the evidences adduced at this trial and the controlling laws cited, this court finds and adjudged that the state prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants (Salah and Tamer) jointly and severally , committed the crimes of criminal conspiracy, theft of property and misapplication of entrusted property, and that the total amount of which Tayo Motors, the partnership enterprise was deprived through the commission of these crimes is US$1,370,390.60."

Further to Gbeisay's judgment, he said, "From the manner and form in which the records of the business was kept and the business money expanded, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that the managing partner had an nefarious motives or separate agenda in running the business to the detriment of the majority partner, Ezzat Eid."

Meanwhile, Gbeisay on Monday suspended prison sentenced for the Farhats until the Probation Division at the Ministry of Justice can conclude with its investigation regarding the criminal behavior of the Salah and Tamer.

"The clerk of this court is hereby ordered to communicate with the probation division of Montserrado County to conduct an investigations of the defendants records and report its findings within 15 days, base upon which the court shall conduct a sentence hearing and appropriately sentenced the criminal defendants," the criminal court judge ruled.

The case grew in 2011, when both Eid and Salah entered into a partnership agreement for the operation of Tayo Motors, of which Eid holds 65 percent share and Salah holds the remaining 35 percent share.

During the formation of the partnership, Salah served as managing partner and his son was appointed as both sale and financial manager.

Eid also appointed one Ahmed Assah as his agent in Tayo Motors-Liberia.

Initially, the partnership had four shareholders with Eid holding 45 percent, Salah 25 percent, Kama Hanson 10 percent and Wall Harris 20 percent respectively.

Later, the court records claimed that Eid brought Harris's 20 percent share making his total share to 65 percent, while Salah also brought Hanson's 10 percent share making his share to 35 percent.

The court records claimed that after the Farhats managed the company for two and a half years, they did not make any financial report to the majority shareholder, Eid, and so, when he decided to engage his managing partner, Salah over his failure to make report to him (Eid) for so long, Salah issued him a US$45,000, but, he noticed that the check was not drawn from the Tayo Motors' account with Ecobank-Liberia, which the partnership agreed upon. Instead, the check was draw from Salah's personal account with Ecobank-Liberia. And, there was no discussion between the partners to use Salah's account besides, their Tayo Motors account.

Thereafter, Eid, the records alleges, decided to appoint his son-in-law Wall Harris, who's percent share he had purchased to conduct an audit of the Tayo Motors.

When Harris visited the company's premises, the document claimed, he did not get any cooperation from Salah, and so, he advised Eid to pay for Salah's 35 percent share, which Eid did, making him (Eid) the sole owner of the business.

It was against this backdrop, the court records claimed, that Eid finally had access to the records of the Tayo Motors and where they managed to discover several irregularities in the transaction records of Tayo Motors by the Farhats.

After discovering the irregularities, Eid reported the matter to the Lebanese Ambassador and the President of the Lebanese Community. They cited the parties, Eid and Salah, though unfortunately Salah refused to attend any of the called meetings, leading to the establishment of an Arbitration Committee, which again Salah did not show-up to the meeting.

That action necessitated Eid to hire the services of ENAG Consulting and Auditing Firm, on April 5, 2018 to conduct an audit on the operations of Tayo Motors.

It was also alleged that when the auditing firm contacted Salah Farhat to avail himself for the audit he refused to cooperate with the auditors, thereafter, the completion of the aduit report that resulted to the indictment of both Salah and Tamer Farhat for the commission of the crimes of criminal conspiracy, theft of property and misapplication of entrusted property.

The indictment alleges that initially the partnership agreed for co-defendants Salah Farhat's salaries to be US$2,000 monthly and his son Tamer to be US$1,000 monthly, unfortunately, as of February 2016, without the knowledge of Eid, the majority shareholder, Salah increased his salary to US$5,000, while Tamer was US$2,000.

Thereby, Salah and Tamer with the increment, they deprived Eid of US$127,000 as of February 2016 to 2018," the indictment alleges.

The indictment also alleges that on September 29, 2014 a bill of sale from Tayo Motors was issued out to Salah Farhat for a Double Cabin pickup truck (engine#04062119) serial #LJ11PABC3DC086286, color white).

Another bill of sale also dated December 24, 2015 for the same vehicle was made to Salah Farhat in the name of a customer identified as Clarence Momolu.

Later, Momolu issued a promissory note to Salah Farhat for the amount of US$22,000, but the document alleges that the money from the transaction were accounted for in Tayo Motors 's accounts, meaning that the records of the Tayo Motors about the same pick-up showed that Salah , sold the vehicle to himself and at the same time he (Salah) resold it to Momolu and the money was not deposited into the account of Tayo Motors.

When Eid, who is the majority owner of the partnership, became suspicious of the illegal operations of the Tayo Motors, under the management of of his managing partner, Salah Farhat, Eid also alleged that on September 29, 2014 Salah exercised unauthorized control over and converted an amount of US$682,567 of the partnership funds and transferred the money into co-defenadnt Salah's personal account at the Ecobank.Liberia, the same bank the Tayo Motors has account.

The indictment also alleges that paid US$266,400 as rent for his house where he and two other employees of the company for the period of seven years without the knowledge of Eid.

The document also alleges that Tayo Motors obtained judgment from the Commercial Court, at the Temple of Justice against Urban Building Inc, for non-payment of invoice.

But, during the enforcement of the judgment in the amount of US$33,165, where a DAF Truck and two JAC Trucks owned by Urban Builder that were seized by the court as enforcement of its judgment was auction by the court to recover the money.

Unfortunately, the court records claimed that during the auction exercise Salah used his houseboy identified as Dargbe Sirboe to bid for and purchased the vehicles at the auction sale price of US$10,000, leaving a balance of US$23,165 as money Urban Builder owed Tayo Motors, as of October 13, 2014.

The document also alleges that on March 1, 2017, Urban Builders Inc, account with Tayo Motors was credited with the equivalent amount of the debit balance and brought to zero balance, records removed from the computer system without any evidence of any funds inuring to Tayo Motors.

Again Tayo Motors sold some vehicles to a company named Land and Housing Developing Inc, payment for which was made by two open checks , which means no name was inserted as payee of the checks in the amount of US$23,000 each were issued by Land, and Housing Development Inc, drawn on Guaranty Trust Bank (Liberia) cash payment vouchers number 430, 431 and 432 dated May 5, 2014 for US$6,000 was made against sale of a pick-up trucks, according to the indictment.

It is alleged that total amount of US$64,000 was not reflected on the bank statement of the Tayo Motors for the transaction.

"MAK Group Inc, issued a check drawn on First International Bank (now GN Bank) for the sale of a vehicle to it by Tayo Motors for amount of US$17,000 but the receipt for the amount was issued by co-defendant Tamer Farhat in his own name , and not in the name of the Tayo Motors and that there is no show of this payment in the bank records of Tayo Motors.," the indictment added.

"Tayo Motors sold a vehicle to the West African Examination Council, the check was issued by the said West Africa Examination Council in the amount of US$18,000 was issued to co-defendant Salah Farhat, not Tayo Motors and the amount was not accounted for in the book or bank records of Tayo Motors. Tayo 4X4 pickup truck was purchase from Chain Business Center by Tayo Motors thoruhg the issuance of the later check in the amount of US$12,000 drawn on Ecobank-Liberia but there is no record for the said pickup truck, the document claimed.

Also, the court record alleges that the Association of Evangelical of Liberia, purchased a vehicle from Tayo Motors and paid for it by the issuance of an International Bank of Liberia check in the amount of US$20,000 , but the check was issued in the name of co-defendant Tamer Farhat and not Tayo Motors and there is no evidence of the deposit of that money into Tayo Motors bank account,.

"An invoice number SI-00010 in the amount of US$18,896.73 dated January 6, 2916 in the name of co-defendant Salah Farhat as cash customer of Tayo Motors , but on the accounting invoice for Tayo Motors, the invoice is edited to the amount of US$16,768.11 on February 2, 2016," the indictment said.

The indictment further alleges that another judgment of the Commercial Court in favor of Tayo Motors against the International Construction and Engineering Inc, in the amount of US$88,171 was issued by the auction of the judgment debtor's vehicles (2021 Nissan , X-Trail SUV, engine#281653A, chassis no.251181) on February 1, 2016, Mr. Joseph Fayiah, Tayo Motors mechanic was used by co-defendant Salah Farhat to bid for the vehicle for US$3,500 using funds owned by Tayo Motors .

On February 18, 2016, said Joseph Fayiah sold the vehicle to co-defendant Salah in his personal capacity without any record of the sale proceeds into Tayo Motors bank records.

"Co-defendant Salah sold a JAC HFC1037 pick-up truck on November 11, 2017 to Tayo Motors for the amount of US$17,721, which should have been a new brand of the vehicle instead, co-defendant Salah later delivered to Tayo Motor inventory a used JAC HFC1037, which he had originally purchased on October 10, 2016 for the amount of US$14,307," the indictment alleges.

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