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Liberia: Eyebrow Raises over Intent of FUZION Restaurant Shutdown by Government

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MONROVIA – The sudden shutdown of FUZION, a popular continental restaurant in Monrovia, by the Ministry of Commerce after being slapped with an ‘unjustified’ US$3,000 fine, is raising suspicions of a political intent by the Inspector General of Commerce, Josephine Davies.

The Ministry of Commerce has not been able to give any definite reason for the closure of the restaurant, despite being contacted by FrontPageAfrica.

FUZION is owned by Ms. Telia Urey who went neck-to-neck with the ruling party’s candidate, Abu Kamara, in the just-ended Montserrado County District 15 by-election. Ms. Urey, daughter of Mr. Benoni Urey who heads the All Liberian Party (ALP) an opposition political party.

Ms. Davies, a staunch member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

It is not clear why Ms. Davies and her team of inspectors went to inspect FUZION as the restaurant still has an current inspection certificate.

However, Ms. Urey explained that on August 28, her business center was visited by inspectors from Commerce Ministry along with Ms. Davies to carryout inspection. 

They were, however, asked to wait by the cashier since the manager was not at the premises but was making his way there. Urey said, Davies told the cashier she could not wait and then asked her to leave the cashier stand and get out of the restaurant.

“Upon the arrival of Abel Zeegar, the customer relations officer, he met a few of the commerce staff seated (Ms. Davies had already left). They presented him with the inspection letter. Upon seeing this letter, Abel told the inspectors that they could go ahead with the inspection. One of the inspectors then said that he could not carry on an inspection without the presence of the IG. He then called her and she told them not to go ahead with the inspection and that she would be coming back to “shut the restaurant down,” Urey detailed the incident on Facebook.

She alleged that after almost two hours, the Inspector General returned to the restaurant with police officers and began causing commotion which led to customers leaving the restaurant. According to Urey, Davies eventually left, but threatened to shut down the restaurant. 

“On September 4th, to our utmost surprise, we received a $US3,000 fine from the Ministry of Commerce for ‘hindering of authorized inspection’. We immediately contacted our lawyers and scheduled a conference at Ministry of Commerce,” she explained. 

According to Urey, “at the conference, on Monday, September 9, we went to plead for the reduction of the fine, explaining to them that the cashier who IG Davies met upon entry did not know the procedures or protocol for inspection and only asked for them to wait to speak to the manager because that didn’t fall in her scope of work. We were asked to write a letter of appeal for reduction of the fine.

“Considering we have been a compliant business for over 6 years and did not want to go into the legality of the fine, as long as we could get it reduced. We wrote the Ministry, as requested, on September 12th (see attached).

“Again, to our surprise, on today September 16, 2019, Davies came to the restaurant again with police and media and shut the business down. We did not receive any response to our September 12 letter or any warning that the request was denied.”

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