Cllr. David Jallah, Prominent Liberian Lawyer, Block 13 Probe Figure is Dead

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By Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected] 

Monrovia – Cllr. David A.B. Jallah, one of Liberia’s prominent lawyers and a key figure in the controversial oil block 13 investigations is dead.

Family sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that Cllr. Jallah, who was among several lawyers recently appointed by President George Manneh Weah, to a committee established to review all concession agreements in the country, fell out early Monday and was rushed to the Redemption Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The investigation into the ExxonMobil purchase of Oil Block 13 found that Cllr. Jallah was at the center of a select group of Liberian shareholders of the block originally owned by Broadway.

Cllr. Jallah was the only name on the document as representing the shareholders, many of who happened to have been at the helm of power when the initial negotiations and ratifications were concluded as members of Liberian government. The group reportedly received US$3.1 Million as part of the final breakdown out of a total of US$120 million doled out from the sale. Of that amount, US$45 million went to government coffers, US$5 million to NOCAL as taxes while US$70 Million was paid to Broadway/Peppercoast. Out of that US$70 million, a FrontPageAfrica investigation found, $US3.1 Million was paid out to Liberia shareholders.

Cllr. Jallah’s death comes just days after a special committee appointed by President George Manneh Weah submitted its report to him regarding a Global Witness investigation into the Block 13 saga.

In March this year, Global Witness released a report in which it called on the government to investigate officials involved in the Exxon Mobil’s US$120 million purchase of oil Block 13 in 2013 for corruption and wrongdoing and to ensure the independence of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Block 13 was originally awarded by NOCAL in 2005 to Liberian-Anglo Company Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP). In 2007, the block was ratified by the Liberian legislature through bribery.

But Global Witness’ evidence shows that the company was likely part-owned by former Mining Minister Jonathan Mason and his deputy, Mulbah Willie (late). Mason and Willie are suspected of granting the oil block to a company in which they held interests while they were also ministers in 2005, which was illegal under Liberian law. “Exxon knew that Block 13 was originally awarded through bribery and that its purchase of the oil block could enrich former officials who might have been behind BCP. Undeterred by the corruption red flags, Exxon went ahead with the deal anyway,” the report said.

Global Witness’ evidence shows that it structured the transaction in a way to skirt US anti-corruption laws by using a Canadian company – Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL) – as a go-between to buy the block.

The Special Presidential Committee set up by President Weah to probe the Block-13 saga recommended that Cllr. Jallah, who was appointed by President Weah in April on the Committee to review all concessions, management and other agreements/contracts currently in force in Liberia, should recuse himself from the committee.

The Committee noted that it was “of the opinion that it is unfair in inappropriate for Cllr. Jallah to seat on a Committee to review the founding documents and concession agreements of other companies when he has willfully refused to make available the records relating to his own company available for public scrutiny.”

Cllr. Jallah, a former Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law was often fond of sharing knowledge. During a turning over the Cllr. Negbalee Warner said he was glad that one of the products of the law school was taking over from him. “I have always told my faculty—and they will attest to that, even Negbalee—‘I am developing a faculty that if I walk away today, any one of you can replace me.’”

In May 2011, he sparked a controversy when he was quoted as telling his colleague lawyers at the May Quarterly Session of the 6th Judicial Circuit (Civil Court of Law, Equity and Admiralty, Montserrado County) that they should take bribes offered to them but do the right thing at the end of the day. “This is a problem that many people in the country do not want to discuss or attack head-on by calling the spade a spade. So as a result, they tend to suggest inane solutions to the problem like “take the bribe but do what is right”, he was quoted as saying.

Despite the controversial nature of his practice, Cllr. Jallah was often called upon to serve on special presidential committees as he was when former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed him as head of a Special Independent Council mandated to investigate accusations of money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal arrest and conspiracy to defraud, involving some Korean nationals, a Lebanese and the National Security Agency (NSA).

That report recommended appropriate administrative actions be taken against the operatives of the National Security Agency (five in all) who were directly involved with the arrest of the Korean and Sierra Leonean nationals immediately and that operatives of the National Security Agency (five in all) who were directly involved with the arrest of the Korean and Sierra Leonean nationals, and their co-conspirators (two who do not work with the NSA) be handed over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution in order to clear the name and image of the National Security Agency.

 The committee also recommended that the government of Liberia refund to the Korean nationals the full amount of the Two Hundred, Forty Seven Thousand, Five Hundred United States Dollars (US$247, 500.00) which they withdrew from the International Bank of Liberia (IBLL) on July 8, 2014, and which they proceeded with directly to the City King Hotel, immediately thereafter, and were arrested shortly after their arrival.

Cllr. Jallah, born on March 25, 1951 in Owensgrove, Grand Bassa County, and was a full Professor of Law, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia.

He joined the Law Faculty in 1984 and became Dean in 2000. Prior to becoming Dean, he served as Assistant Professor and Associate Professor. Dean Jallah is a 1975 graduate of the William V. S. Tubman Teacher’s College, University of Liberia (BSc) and a 1978 graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law (L.LB), also at the University of Liberia.

He obtained a Master of Laws Degree (L.LM) from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America (1984) and was also a graduate of the Liberia Foreign Service Institute (1975); a graduate of the International Law Development Institute (Now International Law Development Organization (1986), Rome, Italy. He was Deputy Commissioner of Immigration & Naturalization, Ministry of Justice, Republic of Liberia (1979-1980). He has been engaged in the private practice of law since 1981, first with the Cooper & Togbah Law Firm and then with The David A. B. Jallah Law Firm which he established in 1988 where he still serves as a Senior Consultant.

Cllr. Jallah once served as Chairman of the City Council of Monrovia for several years after 2006. He is Past President of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce and Past President of the Liberian National Bar Association. He is admitted to practice law in all courts in Liberia and is also a member of the New York Bar, United States of America. He is a member of Lions Club International with his home Club being Greater Monrovia Lions Club located in District 403 A-2.

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