Liberia: Contaminated Death Scenes Could Complicate President’s SOS Call for US Help in Probe
Monrovia – Bombarded with theories and innuendos regarding the death of her long-time friend and associate, Mr. Harry A. Greaves, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf turned to Liberia’s traditional stepfather, the United States of America for help in finding out whether something sinister was amiss after Mr. Greaves’ gruesome body showed up on the beach near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the morning of Sunday, January 31, 2016.
Like the Greaves murder, similar speculations followed the death of Attorney Michael Allison, the son of former Defense Minister Gray D. Allison.
Both Greaves and Allison were engulfed in controversies leading up to their deaths.
Memory of Greaves, Allison
Mr. Greaves had become a champion for the cause of passing a New Electricity Law of Liberia in the Senate to privatize electricity, mounting a a fierce media campaign to push that agenda.
Similarly, Allison, a former consultant to the National Oil Company of Liberia, was found dead on a beach in February. He was a central figure in an investigation involving the speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives. His death was marred by conspiracy theories and speculations of foul play amid reports that Allison had complained to friends that his life was in danger, just days before his death.
In the wake of the deaths of four auditors – three from the Liberia Revenue Authority and another, from the Internal Audit Agency(IAA), President George Manneh Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change-led government are sending out an SOS call to the United States of America to help with the investigation into the mysterious deaths, all coming in an eight-day span.
Speaking to state radio, the Liberia Broadcasting System Sunday at the weekend, the President said it is sad that the latest deaths are happening at a time when the country is nurturing a vibrant democracy where there’s respect for fundamental human rights.
The Liberian leader announced that he has instructed Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean to coordinate his efforts with partners of the government, including the Americans, in order to establish the cause of the deaths of the three government staffers. While expressing his sympathies to the bereaved families, the President said that “death should come naturally….anything to the contrary is unacceptable!”.
President Weah explained that he understands why some people will engage in speculations about what might have caused the unexplained deaths, but he called on everyone to “give the authorities chance to determine the cause of death”.
President Weah also reiterated the government’s earlier commitment to carry out an open and impartial investigation. He said at this point, it’s difficult to know what exactly happened. “But I am working to make sure we determine what happened through the investigation..”, he said.
The President’s call comes as investigators are said to be making some headway in the probe of all four deaths, but the probe, FrontPageAfrica has learned is being slowed by a number of obstacles, mostly the lack of CCTV footages and eyewitness, in the case of the LRA auditor and researcher.
On Friday, Oct. 2nd, two employees of the LRA identified as Albert Peters and Gifty Asmah Lama were found dead in a vehicle near Cathedral on Broad Street.
Mr. Peters worked as an Assistant Commissioner for Internal Audit and Mrs. Lamah was a manager in the Tax Payer Services Division (TPSD).
The pair were separately married; Albert Peters had Beatrice Andrews Peters as his wife while Victoria Asmah Lamah was married to Sylvester Saye Lamah whose contact this paper is yet to access.
No CCTV Footage; UBA Dismisses Speculations
As the debate lingers, the United Bank for Africa Liberia Limited moved Monday to dismiss suggestions that it has in its possession CCTV footage capturing the death of two employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority(LTA).
In a statement, the bank through Melody Mezay-Ketter, Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, said “while it is true that UBA has CCTV camera on its premises, the location where the bodies of the deceased were found doesn’t fall within the bank’s camera’s range of coverage.”
The bank says, as an institution that operates within the confines of the law, it would have supported the government’s investigation efforts by providing such footage, had there been any in its possession.
The bank also dismissed suggestions that some of its staffers were harassed to produced the CCTV footage. “The bank also wishes to make it categorically clear that at no point in time has any of its staff members been harassed or intimidated by State Security Operatives to produce footage from the bank’s CCTV coverage, as it is also being speculated.”
Separately, Mr. George F. Fanbutu, another staffer at the LRA. was pronounced dead at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center after he reportedly lost control his steering wheel on the 72nd Boulevard, hit a pedestrian identified as Saar Fayiah and the car rested in the house of one Dr. Joseph P. K. Boika in the Roland Duo curve on the 72nd Boulevard.
Additionally, on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, Mr. Emmanuel Barten Nyeswua, Director General, Internal Audit Agency was found dead at his home. The circumstances relating to Mr. Nyeswua’s death are still murky although FrontPageAfrica has learned that Mr. Nyenswua, who had earlier gone out with friends at the Calabash spot on the Congotown backroad was found dead in his yard around 2am early Saturday morning at his 72nd Boulevard home.
Since Mr. Nyeswua’s death, police have interrogated three of his friends who were hung out with him at Calabash and returned with him at home in the early morning hours leading to his death. FrontPageAfrica has learned that the deceased was intoxicated but did not drive himself home, his driver reportedly drove the car with him in the front seat and two other passengers in the back.
The three friends – Teacon Williams, Dr. James Wreh and an unidentified woman – FrontPageAfrica has learned were held overnight at the LNP headquarters and released after giving statements to police late Monday evening.
What remains unclear is whether Mr. Nyeswua’s death was a freak accident or something more. Several reports have suggested that the late IAA boss may have fallen from a door leading from his bedroom to a tight pavement without railings.
In all three cases, numerous concerns have been reported regarding the handling of the scene where the bodies were discovered.
In the case of Albert and Gifty, both families have expressed dissatisfaction about the manner in which investigators handled the scene where the bodies were discovered.
Sylvester S. Lama, Gifty’s husband said recently that the family was taken aback by the decision taken by authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to deny him and other family members the opportunity to view the remains of his beloved wife on two separate occasions signifies a “foul play” over circumstances which led to the death of his wife.
Eyewitnesses have also told FPA that when the bodies were discovered sand was found on Gifty’s legs.
Additionally, the pair’s laptops and phones were also not found in the vehicle when the bodies were discovered. Investigators confirmed to FPA Monday that Mr. Peter’s pair of trousers was found behind the B.W. Harris Episcopal High School, far from where the bodies were discovered in the car, raising suspicions about the theory being floated around that the pair were involved in an extramarital affair.
Mr. Peters’ Laptop, Phone Found
Since the bodies were discovered, FPA has now been informed authorities have recovered Mr. Peters’ laptop and phone. As this report went to press, investigators have not been able to retrieve Mrs. Lamah’s I-Phone and laptop although, although a small phone said to belong to her is reportedly in the possession of the police.
Mr. Peters’ laptop has reportedly been verified with a screensaver of his daughter’s graduation ceremony.
The items were reportedly retrieved from a street gang linked to Zogos with two prime suspects known only as Ortega and the Ivorian said to be persons of interests in the case.
What is unclear is whether the street gang investigators retrieved that items from have any connection to the deaths of the pair.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity Monday said all those in possession of the items from the vehicle are suspects.
Authorities have not been able to confirm to FrontPageAfrica whether they have a figure known as “Supreme” in custody.
According to Gifty’s husband, Sylvester, following multiple efforts to locate his wife, Gifty, the discovery of his wife in a vehicle was firstly revealed by an unidentified man who answered the phone of his wife, during the early morning hours of Friday. He noted that the comments from the unknown person reenergized family members to again launch a manhunt search for his wife, but all efforts to get a sight on her did not materialize.
Mr. Lama explained: “We came home by 2 am in the morning and my sister-in-law dialed her lone star number. When she dialed the number, a strange person answered the call saying that, ‘your will see her tomorrow in the car’. From there, he cut off the phone. For each time, I dialed the number, he does not respond. When I text the number, the person will call back and say the same thing”.
According to Mr. Lama, the person on the line mistakenly left the phone on after one of the calls and they heard a name identified as “Supreme”.
White Powder on Gifty’s Nose
Photographs in possession of FrontPageAfrica also point to a white substance under the nose of Gifty and authorities are yet to determine what that substance was.
The mystery surrounding the deaths of the LRA pair is also compounded by the decision by authorities to take the bodies to the funeral home instead of the hospital for an autopsy to be performed.
The family were also not given the chance to view the body. “They have not even given us chance to see the body,” Mr. Lama said recently. “When we got the information that my wife body was in a car on Broad Street, the father and I got there only to see St. Moses was already there, LRA Commissioner General was there. The dad and I pleaded for us to see the body, but they prevented us from seeing the body. We went to JFK to even see the body, but they prevented my father-in-law and us from seeing the body. They know the reason. Most of the time you hear bodies lying in the street; it takes three to four days before the police from the homicide division go. Why they do that-they want to allow family members to have access. With this type of incident and people preventing family members from seeing the body, we are highly disappointed as a family”.
Of particular importance is the mystery surrounding the moments leading to Gifty and Albert’s death.
FrontPageAfrica has learned that takeaway food in two separate bags were found in the vehicle when the bodies were discovered.
It is not clear whether the food in the takeaway bags were from a retreat they may have attended at the John W. Gbedze Beach Resort from Thursday, September 24 to Sunday September 27, 2020.
Ironically, Mrs. Beatrice Andrews Peters, widow of Mr. Peters, through an audio recording played live on Facebook by Prophet Key, a talk show host, indicate that Peters, after the retreat decided not to go anywhere because he was tired and, besides, he was on leave.
After staying home from Sunday to Wednesday, Mrs. Peters in the audio recording said her husband received a call that “Their money was ready” and therefore he decided to go to central Monrovia to the International Bank (IB) on Thursday morning, taking with him his two laptops which, according to Beatrice, she found unusual. “Why carry the two laptops,” she asked her husband who, in response, told her: “May be they will tell me to do some work,” the widow explained.
Besides the Snapper Hill scene where Gifty and Albert’s bodies were discovered, questions are also being raised about the accident scene in the aftermath of Fanbutu’s death.
Fears of Contamination at Death Scenes
A video posted on social media by talk show host Henry Costa showed residents in the 72nd community coming to the aid of Mr. Fanbutu. Mr. Costa claimed that Mr. Fanbutu, while on his way home along the 72nd Boulevard, was chased by men on motorbikes with machetes. One of them opened the driver’s door and gushed the LRA employee on his head, leading him to lose control of the steering wheel.
Additionally, the scene in the aftermath of the death of IAA director, Nyeswua was also said to be contaminated by several bystanders and relatives who visited the scene after his death.
Speculations have been rife that all four deaths were tied to ongoing audits.
The three deceased LRA staffers were reportedly linked to audits of the government’s Consolidated Accounts while the late IAA Director General, Nyeswua was said to have just completed an audit of the Covid-19 funds.
Mrs. Lama, was known to be a Research Analyst at the LRA and a recent investigation by FPA revealed that prior to her death, she had been transferred as Manager for Taxpayers Services – the section responsible for the supervision of all incoming government money. She was reportedly assisting Mr. Peters who was also commissioned to audit the consolidated account at the Central Bank of Liberia prior to their mysterious deaths.
The Liberia Revenue Authority confirmed Gifty’s new role on its website but failed to provide details on their last assignment as requested for earlier on Monday by FrontPageAfrica.
FrontPageAfrica gathered from impeccable sources that the Central Bank of Liberia has not been making transfers into that account as required. Revenue and account reconciliation, according to an expert, requires spending long hours at the Central Bank.
Sources informed FrontPageAfrica that Gifty and Albert had been trying to trace taxpayers’ payments to the consolidated fund but had not been successful because the Central Bank had not been making the transfers.
Mrs. Lama, according to sources, may have been assisting Albert to dig out the collection of revenue relative to this account from the LRA tax system. Fears are that auditors would likely shy away from revenue accounts and reconciliation, following the deaths of the pair.
As tension grips the city in the wake of four deaths in eight days, many Liberians are unsure what to make of President Weah’s appeal to the US for help.
Like the case of Greaves and Allison, it may be a saga of much ado about nothing – or a sinister plot to silence auditors gone horribly wrong.
In the case of Greaves, many were left baffled when a confidential report labelled Law Enforcement Sensitive, undertaken by investigators from the United States Government’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) concurred with findings of investigators of the Liberia National Police and U.S. Pathologists; that Mr. Greaves died as a result of accidental drowning.
At the time, the four-page report which was submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the U.S. Embassy on July 28, 2016, revealed that marital and personal problems may have driven Mr. Greaves to the edge. According to the case summary report release to the Government of Liberia, during the investigation, DSS Special Agents learned that Mr. Greaves was undergoing great personal stress to include financial difficulties and a failing marriage. “Several witnesses expressed to investigators that the last weeks of his life, Harry Greaves appeared sad, depressed and withdrawn,” the report noted.
Nearly four years later, the current administration finds itself facing similar drumbeats over a series of unexplained deaths, relating to auditors and ongoing audits of government accounts and accounts of the COVID-19.
The US embassy in the capital, has not yet responded to the President Weah’s plea for help but the coming days could prove pivotal in a season of lingering whodunnits – and unanswered questions regarding audits, dead auditors – and the quest for the answers.