Liberia: Foreign Investor Considering Legal Action Against Gov’t For Alleged Breach of Confidentiality
Monrovia – FrontPageAfrica has seen two separate letters addressed to two of Liberia’s international development partners, in which a major investor in the seaport sector has threatened to commence a litigation process against President George Manneh Weah-led administration.
In the almost identical, content letters addressed to both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative, Mr. Geoffrey Oestreicher and Ms. Kateri Clement, Resident Coordinator, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Prista Oil Holding EAD, Mr. Plamen Bobokov, which is investing a whopping US$277 million in the Liberian economy, said “it is with dismay that it has come to the knowledge that the Chairman of the National Investment Commission is engaging in criminal activity of disclosing sensitive financial information of our business model in an effort to solicit a deal that has already been concluded.”
Prista Oil Holding is the mother company of Prista Port Buchanan LLC. “It is a Liberian business entity, which was established by the European multinational company Prista Oil Holding EAD, in order to facilitate the recently concluded Concession Agreement with the Government of Liberia for the Port of Buchanan,” Bobokov wrote as he introduces his entity to those development partners.
He further told them that in parallel to what they are doing, Prista Port intends to invest in Liberia’s economy and contribute to a stable and continuous development of the country.
“For your understanding, our obligation is to develop, to refurbish, to maintain and to manage the Port of Buchanan including an industrial area and some important social responsibility projects (schools, training centers, local electric network, agriculture training programs, etc.),” stated Bobokov. He added that by virtue of the Concession Agreement dated 14th August 2019, approved by President Weah on September 12, 2019, and ratified by the Senate with Act No41 on September 30, 2019, they are expected to manage the Port of Buchanan for 25 years.
He further informed the IMF and MCC that Prista Oil Holding’s Board has approved an investment program of US$277 million to be invested in the Port of Buchanan. He added: “Additionally, we expect about US$200 million to be invested from third parties in the industrial zone and in the city of Buchanan. The new investments are expected to create jobs for more than 5000 people, where as we gave guarantee to the Government for 2000 working places by January 2020.”
According to the Prista Oil Holding’s Board of Directors Chairman, they “were very surprised and discontent by the information that a member of the Executive—the Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Mr. Molewuleh Gray—is trying to deceive foreign investors to participate in the criminal activity of breaching the Constitution and Laws of the Republic of Liberia, by disclosing sensitive financial information of our business model attempting to solicit a deal which was already concluded.”
He also disclosed to the development partners that they (Prista) are baffled that the last formal procedure—“the issuing of the Handbill, allowing us and the Government’s representatives to start the 90-day transition/handover period has been withheld so far, due to unexplainable reasons.”
“What is more surprising with the delay is that the Concession Agreement stipulates payment to the Government of an amount of US$7 million on or around the Handover date, and additional US$3 million after one year. We consider that such signature bonus is large, but we also understand our obligation to support Liberia in a difficult situation.”
Mr. Bobokov stressed that the Investment Commission Chair’s action has shown disrespect to the whole procurement process and to the decision to senior members of the Government including President Weah, who had signed the Concession Agreement on August 14, 2019.
He added: “Needless to say, that by presenting third parties with confidential information about the financial projections of Prista, he heavily ruin the integrity of the negotiation process with the National Investment Commission.”
The Prista Port Buchanan Board Chairman
concluded, “Bearing in mind above and in line with the negotiation process IMF
is conducting with the Government of Liberia, we hereby feel obliged to inform
you that we intend to commence a litigation process against the Government of
Liberia in ICSID (International Center for Solution of Investment Disputes),
Washington, DC, for breach of warranty of authority and hope that such
proceeding shall not heavily affect your efforts and plans in respect of the
IMF Mission in Liberia.”
When this newspaper contacted the Chairman of the NIC and an introduction was done, he asked, “What can I do for you?” When the nature for the call was disclosed, he retorted, “Look, my friend, I am in a meeting now you can find me tomorrow so we can talk.”
There are unconfirmed reports that the Minister of Finance is spreading rumors that international donors are pushing the Liberian Government to cancel the deal with Prista.
Meanwhile, FrontPageAfrica has been told by diplomatic sources close to some development partners that the IMF has informed the government of its decision to withdraw finance support for unspecified period of time until certain things are done by the Liberian Government.