Liberia: Sudden Closure of Accounts, A Pattern at GT Bank?
MONROVIA – Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) is coming under the spotlight for questionable closure of accounts once owners of such accounts have legal wrangling with the Government causing the government to request a stay order on the further withdrawals from said account.
The case of Mr. Charles Sirleaf, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank for Operations who recently complained that US$700,000 and L$10 million had disappeared from his accounts with GT Bank seems to be a sequel of the experience of Mr. Chris Onanuga, CEO of CT.COM
GT Bank reportedly closed the account of CT.COM without informing him of their action during a legal wrangling with the government of Liberia.
This occurred in 2019.
CT Com’s account was frozen after another company – J2 Investment – alleged that Mr. Onanuga had engaged in influence peddling by using the name of President George Weah to secure by fraud and deception US$2.1 million from China Union as compensation fro allegedly negotiating with officials of government the reduction of the US$10.5 million debt owed by China Union to US$4 million.
Investigation by the Solicitor General in the matter revealed that J2 believed to be owned Mr. E. C.B. Jones and Mr. Augustine Jarrett hired CT Com as the middleman in the negotiation with officials of government to have the China Union’s debt reduced from US10.5 million to US$4 million.
The investigation further revealed that J2 and CT Com successfully negotiated with the government for the reduction.
However, the investigation also discovered that members of the legislative causes of Bong, Margibi and Montserrado Counties “appeared to have hijacked the negotiation process by issuing separate and distinct resolutions and became very instrumental in ensuring that only four million dollars was paid to government.”
The negotiation also paved the way for the return of China Union to Liberia.
The Minister of Finance then issued a waiver letter which confirmed that China Union could go ahead and pay the negotiated amount.
“The role of J2 and CT.com was strictly on the basis of a contractual agreement
J2 had with China Union, to which the Government of Liberia was not a party, and this is supported by the Minister’s letter of waiver. That being the case, J2 was duly and legally compensated as in keeping with the terms and conditions of its contract with China Union, and therefore, I , as the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, see no legal basis to continue maintaining a freezing order on the accounts of CT.com,and Mr. Christopher Onanuga.
“Further, if the government suspects that the Honourable Minister of Finance unwittingly issued tile fatter of waiver because he was misled by certain government officials at the Legislature in concert with J2 and CT.COM it has the option to revoke the waiver and go after China Union for the balance due. More besides, if the money that was paid to CT.Cam had come out of the Government consolidated account, then in that case, the government can go alter J2 and CT.COM.
“Also, if the investigation had established that no tax income was paid to the government, then we could then move against J2 and CT.COM for tax evasion which is a predicate offense of money laundering. But from the records, we gathered that amount paid to J2 (US$2.1m), the government collected its income tax, thereby, legitimizing the transaction.
Ruling on the matter, Associate Justice Yusuf Kaba ruled that the parties agreed that the US$2.1 million paid to J2 Investment vis-à-vis CTCOM is legitimate and should not be subject to freezing or seizure, hence, he ordered the account unfrozen.
In a live broadcast on Facebook, Mr. Onanuga that explained that while his account was ordered frozen, GT Bank “illegally” closed his account without informing him.
This, he said prompted a US$7 million suit against the GT Bank.
He noted that there was no way the amount withdrawn from Mr. Sirleaf’s account would have been possible without the approval from the top management of the Bank in concert with the Government of Liberia.
Meanwhile, authorities at the Liberia National Police have confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that the Bank Manager, Financial Analyst and Tellers from the Guaranty Trust Bank spent most of Tuesday assisting in the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of nearly a million dollars from the private account of Mr. Charles Sirleaf, the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.
Police spokesman Moses Carter told FPA Tuesday the investigation is ongoing. “The investigation is still ongoing; and we have spoken to six persons already from GT Bank, five tellers and one Operational Manager. The total amount under investigation is: US$888,600.00 and 10 Million, 400 plus LD.”