Liberia: ‘Put US$5M in a Bank Account’ – Imperial Investment Ltd. Detail Unpleasant Experience
Below is a letter of complaint from Mr. Mark Brummer, Chief Executive Officer of Imperial Investment Ltd, who alleges that an aide in the office of Madam Makenneh L. Keita, a Coordinator of Special Projects in the office of President George Manneh Weah demanded US$5Million to facilitate a Power/Energy and Waste Management Project proposal. The group’s CEO reports that contrary to what has been reported in another online publication, it never met with Finance and Economic Planning Minister Samuel Tweah or Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill.
Please See the Letter published Verbatim Below:
I wish to place on record the following events and declare it to be factual and accurate: In order for you Sir, to get an accurate picture, it would be remiss of me to not provide you with a background on the matter.
As follows then, is what transpired.
We were invited by Madam Makenneh L. Keita, Special Presidential Projects Department to come to Liberia in order to discuss our proposals for Power/Energy and waste management projects that we wanted to undertake in Liberia. The invitation came via Cannon Group of Companies who had apparently arranged this through her office. We had the intention to stay in Liberia for full visa term of 30 days and booked our flights to that effect accordingly. It was our intention to complete site visits and to use the time to gather data on weather patterns and other environmental statistics in order to finalize our presentation to the government of Liberia.
Having arrived on the Tuesday 10th August, we were greeted at the Aircraft and taken through to the VIP section at Immigration. Where we handed our passports over for processing. At that stage we felt duly respected and positive that we had a certainty that we would actually meet the Minister and do a presentation and felt positive and excited about the opportunity.
We were then driven to a hotel (refer annex) the Boulevard Palace, 13th Street Sinkor Tubman Boulevard, Monrovia, Liberia and was checked into the hotel. We were then left to recover from the long flight until Thursday Morning, when we were picked up and taken to the Cannon Group Offices and advised that we would meet the Minister and be introduced.
At THAT meeting, The Lady that appeared was introduced to us as the Minister of Special Projects and after introductions were made, we were instructed to leave the office so that the Minister and Cannon Group representatives could have their private chat. In effect we were being dismissed with little respect. After the private meeting between the Alleged Minister and Cannon Group we were called back into the room and then advised that we had to DEPART THE COUNTRY with immediate effect as Immigration officials had NOT granted us a VISA. Despite the Invitation Letter stating clearly “VISA ON ARRIVAL”.
We were devastated about this as we had an invitation from the Minister’s Office and could not understand what the reasons were for being so thoroughly dismissed in this manner.
After a bit of talking back and forth, it was our understanding that the Alleged Minister could NOT meet with us officially as we did not have permission to be in the country and therefore had to leave the country immediately. Her reasons.
We explained to the Alleged Minister that this would take some time as we had to first check with the travel agent back in South Africa and of course if the flights would cater for that shortened trip as well as the fact that we needed a minimum of 3 days to do the departure covid test as required by international and local laws.
She (The Alleged Minister) agreed that this would be acceptable period but that we had to inform of the change in flights as soon as possible. We then left the meeting (being driven back via a circuitous route) and returned to the Hotel. At this point it was already too late to change the flights as the travel agent had already closed for the day.
A few hours later, that same night. Dr Saydee (Cannon Group) and Amos (who we understood was the Ministers Aide) came to my room. I called my fellow director (Mr. Gerhard Dirksen), and we had an informal meeting. The contents of which I discuss below:
Being very upset about the lack of civility and professionalism being reflected by the Minister and the Department and not really understanding this sudden turn of events, I requested our passports be returned to us right away as we needed to confirm the covid tests and because it is the only form of legal identification, we had with us. We were assured that the passports would be returned to us the next day (being Friday) and that Dr Saydee would attend to this.
He then stated that in order for us to SIGN any contract with the Minister we would be required to put $5million into a bank account and were told that this would prove beyond doubt our ability to invest in Liberia and would secure us ANY contract. I immediately started arguing about this, as this was NEVER agreed to NOR was it something that we as International Investors would countenance as an acceptable way to do business. I loudly stated that it would NEVER happen that we paid “advance deposits” for ANY business that we do. To say I was shocked and embarrassed that they even thought we would do something like that is very offensive to me and our company and the investors whom I am licensed through and represent.
I then commented that IF they wanted a payment like that, the GOVERNMENT would need to place a 2% Performance Bond of the contract value in escrow as a token of their good faith. The fact that they thought that was a good idea clearly shows they have NO IDEA on how impossible that would be for Liberia. I said that in Jest, but they took it as a “way forward”. There NEVER was a discussion about MOU, Agreements, or contracts regarding this “2% Performance Bond”.
They then left the hotel.
The next morning, first thing, we then “obeyed” the demand of the alleged minister and booked and paid for our flights to get out of the country as soon as possible. And to never return and to caution our Investors and our intentions to warn our associates about doing business in Liberia again.
We had numerous calls with Dr Saydee requesting our passports back. But to no avail. At this time, we were feeling very intimidated and concerned about our continued safety and about the passports being held back.
I therefore reached out the Liberian Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa to assist and I contacted the South African Council here in Monrovia for assistance to obtain our passports back.
We are intimidated by the actions of the Alleged Minister, the total disregard for our safety and the very clear picture that IF we did NOT pay money into an account, we would not get our passports back. It was my thought to notify as many people as possible of our predicament. NO one knew we had even arrived in Liberia.
Our view was that the Government of Liberia is holding us, as international investors, to ransom.
Later that evening Mr. Williams by happenstance called me to check on me and I then briefly explained the situation to him. He was totally shocked and the horror in his voice was comforting to me. He advised he would stop everything and come to us at the hotel to get to the bottom of the matter.
After arrival at my hotel room, we explained to him the situation and our impression. Mr. Williams calmed us down and assured us that at no time were we actually DEALING with the minister, that there was NO CHANCE whatsoever that the Liberian Government would behave in this/such a manner and he himself was devastated about the treatment we had received. He placed numerous calls determining the exact nature of the situation.
During the following days, we wrote an official complaint against the Cannon Group of Dr. Saydee to the Government of Liberia, and we were contacted by The LNP who immediately investigated the matter, the perpetrators of the criminal act were arrested and placed in jail.
We wish to state the following as a true reflection of our intentions as well as facts which can prove our position beyond any doubt.
On this business trip to Liberia (the trip under discussion) – No Director of Imperial Physically MET with the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, nor the Minister of Finance and Development Planning
The Government of Liberia took our concerns for safety with the highest regard. The swift actions clearly showed to us the Position that the Liberian Government takes against corruption. To be Blunt: there is NO tolerance for it.
The request for the bribe was made in our Hotel room by Dr Saydee and Amos (the alleged Assistant),
AT no time was there any discussion about this outside of my hotel room.
The passports were being held by Immigration SINCE our arrival.
Our passports were released without a dime paid or requested
The following questions must therefore be put forward (which any reasonable journalist of integrity would ask):
1. Who paid for the tickets to Liberia for TWO investors?
2. Who paid for the Hotel Accommodation?
Investment. Via Air France paid its own return tickets
3. Who paid for Meals and Drinks?
Investment paid & settled the Bill at the hotel
4. Who paid for the Transport to the Airport?
5. Who bought a local sim card in order to secure comms?
6. Who paid for the flights to be changed?
Investment paid its own airtime
7. How was the Rights of the Victims protected?
We are publicly named, and embarrassed by this “Journalist”. We are the victim as reported to the police and reported to the Government and yet this “Journalist” has not only published our names, but also our company details. Who knows what Canon group promised their cohorts who will suddenly be feeling the weight of the law bearing down on them? Will the Government of Liberia provide extended protection for
us as victims?
Sir, There must be a line drawn between what is good for the countries interest (always a good news story somewhere) and where that interest is not aligned – the rights of the victim must assuredly be protected.
And I am sure you would agree with me Sir. In this instance that is clearly not the case.
ANY reasonable journalist, worth their integrity, would surely have checked this before going public, would surely have checked that when he NAMED the INJURED PARTIES publicly, that he at least spelt their names right? Should have at the VERY LEAST asked for COMMENT by Imperial Investment?
This was NEVER done by this “journalist” and clearly this person has a different agenda and has intentions to besmirch the name of Imperial Investment as well as those of his own Government’s Ministers (who once informed of the nefarious actions by the Canon Group and their associates), acted IMMEDIATLEY, with passion and focus to capture these people and ensure that the facts of the matter came out correctly.
Anywhere else in the world Journalists that publish “VICTIMS” details without thought and concern for those rights, have a clear agenda that they are pursuing. And to clarify our thought on this, it is clear that the “journalist” alleges a plot by Imperial Investment and of certain Ministers in the Government of Liberia.
Subsequent to the RAPID action by the Government of Liberia, I am truly comforted that they are of the same view as us when it comes to corruption, and in this regard, I reached out again to the Embassy and my own Government requesting more information around the protocol of sending a THANK YOU letter to the Government due to their actions.
I am sure you would agree with that Sir. This is not the actions of a “criminal enterprise”.
I remain at your disposal should you wish to discuss any part of this. Thank you for your time to understand the true events and we have no objection should you wish to action this further.
Thank you for your assistance in this regard. Below by signature we confirm it as fact.
Chief Executive Officer
Imperial Investment Ltd.