Embattled Liberia Telecommunications Chief Fails to Proof Extortion Claim
Monrovia – Clinging on a twig to stop drowning, embattled Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LIBTELCO), Sebastian Muah, who was recently exposed by FrontPageAfrica for his alleged investment of over US$200,000 in the Central African Republic (CAR), arranged a hasty press conference in a failed attempt to assassinate FPA’s stellar and impeccable reputation on Friday January 6.
Report by Lennart Dodoo – [email protected]
Without providing any actual evidence to substantiate his allegation of extortion by FrontPageAfrica, he proved further his insincerity by displaying a pro forma invoice he had requested from FPA for a series of publication he had wanted done with regards to some previous and planned activities of LIBTELCO which he heads.
It did not come as a novelty to FPA that Muah displayed this very pro forma invoice during his press conference, claiming that such was an invoice issued him by the Business Manager of FrontPageAfrica, Mrs. Kadi Coleman-Porte, for payment in order for the newspaper to withhold publication of his alleged investment in CAR.
The anomaly in Muah’s statement is why would a newspaper issue an invoice in the name of LIBTELCO for an issue that has nothing to do with the Corporation but its Managing Director who is an individual and an official of government?
Surely this suggests that Sebastian Muah, perhaps, is using money from the coffers of LIBTELCO to carry out clandestine and covert ops. Whoever demands bribe and leave a paper trail to that effect?
FrontPageAfrica does not need to explain that a pro forma invoice is a document that states a commitment on part of the seller to deliver the products or services as notified to the buyer for a specific price. It is thus not a true invoice.
FrontPageAfrica, in full transparency, has published all the email exchanges between its Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Rodney D. Sieh and Mr. Sebastian Muah.
FrontPageAfrica has also forwarded documents linking Mr. Muah to part ownership of the multi-million dollar investment in Bangui to the Ministry of Justice and other media outlets for further investigation.
While Mr. Muah boasts of having recording and other evidence that FrontPage Africa business manager had requested an amount US$100,000 to kill the story, he is yet to produce his evidence to the public as the news outlet has done.
Muah’s Statement At Press Conference
“Late October I got an email from Mr. Sieh asking me that he had news that I had casino business in CAR and I told him if he had information go and publish it.
On November 8, Kadi Porte the paper’s business manager came to LIBTELCO and told me that I have this stuff that I need to talk about.
She came into my office and we had a conversation – I told her it was a false story but I asked her given that this story is true what do you people do? And she said we have to kill this story.
“Now mind you, they are indicating that I spent US$250,000 and they wanted US$100,000. She gave me an invoice that I needed to pay eight times.
Normally, when newspaper do invoices, they add newspaper to it; she asked my assistant to follow her to her car and gave him an invoice US$15,000.
The minute I had the invoice, I BCC the President’s office and James Verdier informing them that I will not bow to extortion, if there is a case, Cllr. Koffa, you’re working on corruption in the country, please come investigate me.
“The President sent my information to the Minister of Justice and Rodney Sieh received the same letter to call us for meeting to focus on the issue of extortion. The battle line, member of the press, is that somewhere in the work we do, for me, it has to be about country.
If Sieh has all the evidence that I stole money and invested in another country, It makes sense to put forth the evidence. This is a case of failed attempt to take money from me. I don’t do money business like that.
“I have been budget head for several years and been audited. I have never been accused of taking money. Just for clarity sake so that it doesn’t go unanswered there is no iota of truth in what was published but a situation of somebody wanting money for work that was not done.
Mr. Sieh if you have documents that show that I stole government money to another country, please bring the documents. We will go to the Ministry of Justice. We will go through the case.”
In a press conference held late Friday evening at the offices of FrontPage Africa in Monrovia, Mrs. Porte challenged Mr. Muah to produce his evidence.
Said Mrs. Porte: “I met Sebastian on November 8 according to my pro forma invoice. And he wanted some publication on some jobs he had done with LIBTELCO and put on a screen with a lot of stuff that he said he had covered, a lot of things he said he had done and places he said he had covered and nobody is aware of those work so he wanted the public to know and he wanted it in the papers.
My advice to him was that it would be done in color [the publication] because in that way people would see what you’re talking about and we came up to an agreement.
“I think it was going to be for two or three months – you know it’s been a while know – and I told him my first payment would have to be down because LIBTELCO is not very good on payment when it comes to publication, they had US$200 for us for almost three months.
I told him he would have to come up with the first payment of US$15,000 and we would run it for the period and after that time then he can come up with another US$15,000. I don’t know anything about US$100,000 that I heard from other guys today. It was US$30,000.00 contract and it was 15-15.
“I had my expeditor with me, Caroline, who signed the pro forma invoice, attached our business registration and tax clearance to that pro forma invoice and all you guys would have a copy here today.”
The contract was not executed by FrontPage Africa after the pro forma invoice was issued and neither was any payment made to the paper.
In its January 6, 2017 publication, FrontPageAfrica categorically disclosed that Mrs. Porte contacted the Editor and who instructed that no further conversations were to be held with Mr. Muah, as the “Media Engagement” was not and will never be a consideration by FPA and that once the investigation (documents, email exchanges and interviews) was concluded, the story (ies) would be printed.
The business manager stopped answering Mr. Muah’s calls. Unable to reach FPA’s Editor or Business Manager, Mr. Muah contacted a mutual friend of the Editor, who happens to be a lawyer and accused FPA of “fabricating a story for extortion purposes”.
Mr. Muah claimed that during the meeting with the paper’s Business Manager, a request was made to him for a sum of US$100,000 to cover up the story and that he had a recording of the conversation.
The lawyer/friend asked the Editor if what Mr Muah was claiming regarding the request for US$100,000 was true and if FPA would be willing to provide the background source of the casino story.
The Editor’s reply was clear that if Mr. Muah has a recording, FPA would buy radio time on all of the stations in the Republic of Liberia for Mr. Muah to play ALL OF THE RECORDING and not an edited version.
To date, Mr. Muah has not played his recording, but sent threatening emails (below) of “exposing FPA”.
FPA Taken Aback by Justice Ministry’s Letter
FPA’s Editor has been invited by the Ministry of Justice for investigation on the matter.
However, Editor Rodney Sieh has expressed dismay over the tone of the letter in that he expects the Justice Ministry to be concerned about investigating Mr. Muah as a government official having huge investment in another country.
He writes in reply to the Justice Minister:
Cllr. Frederick D. Cherue
Ministry of Justice
Republic of Liberia
Dear Minister Cherue:
Happy New Year!
I received your letter dated January 5, 2017 requesting my presence in a meeting on January 10, 2017 regarding exchange of email communications between myself and Mr. Sebastian Muah, Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LIBTELCO). I am currently not in Liberia.
I am one of five journalism fellows selected from around the world in this year’s Southend fellowship at the University of Toronto. I have been here since September 2016 and will be ending my stay here at the end of April 2017.
I appreciate your decision to investigate the issues raised in the FrontPage Africa reportage. It is a welcoming development in Liberia, as more than majority of corruption cases and abuse of public office around the world usually begins with investigative journalist reports.
This is move in the right direction for a Minister of Justice to begin an immediate investigation on such serious corruption allegations, albeit with suggestions from the Executive Mansion.
That said, I was a little surprised by tone of your letter, as it suggests that you are attempting to protect Mr. Muah, that you are placing a greater emphasis on the accusation of “extortion” than the actual merit of the case of a potential illicit funds being invested by a Government official in Central African Republic (CAR), and that you investigating mainly because of the “portfolio” he holds in Government, not necessarily the merits and demerits of the corruption allegation.
This is probably not what you meant, but that is how your letter reads.
In your letter you wrote “The Ministry of Justice is in receipt of a thread of emails between you and Mr. Sebastian Muah, General Manager, Liberia Telecommunications Authority regarding ownership of shares in a casino business in the Central African Republic (CAR) and allegation of extortion, which if established is criminal under the laws of Liberia. This is indeed a concern of the Government of Liberia (GOL) in light of the portfolio that Mr. Muah occupies in this connection…”
As you indicated, you have the email threads between me and Mr. Muah. I have also published the emails between Mr. Muah and me for the public to see and decide. We have published all of the communications in our Friday, January 6, 2017 publication and will continue to dissect Mr. Muah’s explanation in the days ahead.
It is our hope that the Ministry of Justice will do its best to get to the bottom of this as there are several windows of opportunity to ascertain the extent of Mr. Muah’s ownership in the Casino in Bangui.
But in furtherance of your investigation, I am available to confirm the emails in your possession if you can send them to me via email.
A few facts to bring forth:
(1) Mr. Muah provided you the emails and he had likely had a discussion with your office.
(2) FrontPageAfrica initiated the process of notifying the President’s office about Mr. Muah’s alleged activities in Bangui, the Central African Republic (CAR).
Nowhere in the communications I submitted to the President’s office is there any mention of an attempt at extortion. The only mention of anything resembling “extortion” is expressed by Mr. Muah who made several overtures which were rejected by me; and
(3) this is not the first time FrontPageAfrica has brought issues of alleged improprieties to the attention of the President’s office.
Nevertheless, we stand ready to provide to the ministry any and all communications including communications linking Mr. Muah to the Casino in Bangui as a part owner.
Again, I am available via email or telephone if you wish to request any information you think may be helpful to the investigation.
Please permit to provide the following suggestion. The Ministry of Justice begins with the Asset Declaration made by Mr. Muah at the time of his first appointment and assesses the potential for illicit wealth accumulation. We have been informed that nearly a quarter million dollars was deposited by Mr. Muah as investment in this casino.
Unless the President of Liberia gave ministers and managing directors pay raises or bonuses in the past few years, it is hard to convince a reasonable-minded person whether such investment is supported by the salaries of Mr. Muah.
He has been employed in Government since 2008, that is nearly eight years and he claimed he cannot even afford to pay of $50,000 he claimed he owes Wells Fargo but can afford to make nearly a quarter million investments in CAR. If that is not a red flag, I really do not know what is.
While I await your phone call or email, I am attaching documents linking Mr. Muah to the casino in Bangui including his passport he submitted as part of the business registration process.
I hope you will read the emails carefully and peruse the information contain here to undertake an investigation into Mr. Muah as the President has requested.
I wish you all the best in your investigation.
Rodney D. Sieh
Informing the President Of (Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Bias
Mr. Sieh has also written the office of the President bringing to her attention what he considers as bias on the part of the Minister of Justice who had invited him for investigation over a complaint of allegation of extortion by FrontPageAfrica.
Mr. Sieh wondered why the Justice Minister did not mention the letter from the President’s office instructing him (Justice Minister) to investigate Muah.
Rodney Sieh’s letter is as follows:
Happy New Year and hope all is well.
I write to file a complaint of bias against the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Fredrick Cherue.
If you may recall a few months ago, long before this entire Sebastian Muah story unfolded, I submitted to you through Press Secretary Jerelinmek Piah, an exchange of emails between Mr. Muah and I in which he categorically denied any knowledge of shares ownership in a casino in Bangui, the Central African Republic.
To my dismay, Minister Cherue sends me a letter seeking audience with me and suggesting extortion based on what he and Muah have been discussing.
I find it distubring that Mr. Muah displayed a letter sent to me by Mr. Cherue at his press conference on Friday. How did he get a copy?
I find it unfair that your letter to the Justice Minister requesting a probe into the allegations against Mr. Muah has not been made public but the Minister has deliberately chosen to make mine available to Mr. Muah for display at his press conference.
The truth of the matter Madam President is that Mr. Muah lied when he said he had no interest or shares in the casino and if he has lied about that what else is he not lying about?
Based on his lies, the Liberia News Agency reported this based on his press conference which suggests that I am the culprit here.
I think for the sake of transparency and accountability, your office needs to make public your letter to Justice regarding Mr. Muah.
You have always encouraged whistleblowing and encouraged the media to help you in the fight against corruption, we are doing our best but we cannot continue to do it when grave and scathing allegations of this nature are allowed to be washed away.
I have already submitted proof to Mr. Cherue’s office but he has chosen to look the other way for reasons best known to himself.
This is a travesty of justice and reflects poorly on your administration’s fight against corruption.
I think it is only fair that the media and the public know the entire story before this gets out of hand.
All the best.
Rodney D. Sieh
Liberia News Agency (LINA) Story
Society-Muah-Rebuttal – LIBTELCO Boss Complains “FrontPage” Publisher to Pres. Sirleaf…Denies Having Shares in Foreign Casino
Monrovia, January 6 (LINA) – The Managing Director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO), Mr. Sebastian Muah, has denied claims by the FrontPage Africa newspaper that he owns 10 percent shares in a casino in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Mr. Muah told the Liberia News Agency (LINA) Friday that the story is the outcome of “criminal extortion” by Mr. Rodney Sieh, Publisher of the paper, which began since October 2016.
He said Mr. Sieh decided to publish the story to pre-empt an investigation into a complaint he (Muah) had filed with the office of the President of Liberia against Sieh for extortion.
He said the Justice Ministry has already written Mr. Sieh, informing him of the complaint and citing him to a meeting to begin the probe for the alleged extortion.
The FrontPageAfrica newspaper on Friday published a story in which it claimed that the Libtelco boss had acquired a 10 percent stake in a casino in Bangui, the Central African Republic.
LINA has obtained copy of a letter from the Justice Ministry, dated January 5, inviting authorities of the paper for a meeting on Tuesday, January 10, relative to the extortion allegations.
In the letter, Justice Minister Frederick Doe Cherue informed the FrontPage Africa authorities that the allegation is, “indeed, a concern to the Government of Liberia in light of the portfolio that Mr. Muah occupies.”
Mr. Muah today told reporters that he had sent a similar complaint to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.
The LIBTELCO boss said he believes that the email exchanges with Mr. Sieh “clearly show desperation on the part of Mr. Sieh to extort money from me and, thereby, becoming the subject of another criminal law suit.”
It can be recalled that former Agriculture Minister Christopher Toe sued FrontPage Africa in 2013 for libel and was awarded US$1.5 million by the Supreme Court of Liberia in the famous case.
FPA Sends Documents To Liberia News Agency
The story was later pulled down from LINA website. FrontPage Africa has, however, provided supporting documents to the Liberia News Agency which failed initially to contact the Mr. Sieh or the management of FrontPageAfrica, for clarity on Mr. Muah’s allegation.
The management of FrontPageAfrica has expressed hopes that the Liberia News Agency would do due diligence to the documents submitted to them.