Liberia: Congo Embassy in Monrovia Entangled in Alleged Corruption Scandal
Monrovia – In what appears to be a huge conflict of interest and corruption, masterminded by diplomats in collusion with bankers, the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo is entangled in a suspicious transaction at the GN Bank in Monrovia.
FrontPageAfrica has received a barrage of documents, which points to a bogus account that was allegedly opened by officials at the Congolese Embassy in Monrovia in order to divert funding intended for the diplomatic mission.
The GN Bank Account
A FrontPage Africa investigation found that on July 31, 2017, application for the opening of account number 011202546901 was presented to the Head Office of GN Bank Liberia on Broad Street by a name identified in the application as Alexandrine Chacko, a Congolese who FPA later uncovered does not exist. Also attached to Chacko’s the application was a copy of DR Congo consular ID card with ID No. ARDCM-008.
In the completed KYC (Know Your Customer) form from GN Bank, Alexandrine Chacko listed her occupation as ‘public work’ and indicated 16th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia as a residence address.
Alexandrine Chacko also mentioned her passport number as DB0006694 and date of birth as December 22, 1952.
The Suspicious Act
Although Alexandrine Chacko claimed ‘public work’ as her occupation in the KYC form, her consular ID presented in the bank account opening application labeled her profession as a Businesswoman in French (Femme d’Affaires).
FrontPage Africa discovered that the date of birth provided in Chacko’s application is the exact date of birth of Madam Marie Helene Okitundu, Charge d’Affairs e Pied (Head of Mission) at the DR Congo Embassy near Monrovia. Further investigation suggests that the counselor ID does carry the name Alexandrine Chacko but bears the image of Madam Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba. Additionally, a telephone number (0777640222) provided in the application has been authenticated to be the actual contact of Mr. Fernand Kabongo, Executive Secretary to Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba.
Journalists visited the home of Mr. Fernand Kabongo, between 18th and 19th Street in Sinkor after placing a call to his orange number 0777640222. He confirmed the consular ID card image as his boss’ (Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba) but refused to make any comment about the transaction. When shown the account number, he denied that the account was in existence.
However, on May 25, 2018, a reporter made a deposit of twenty United States Dollars ($20.00) to account number 011202546901 in the name of Alexandrine Chacko to authenticate the existence of the account at GN Bank Liberia.
Different names, signature, one image on identification
The investigation further uncovered that Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba is an official signatory to two accounts at the GN Bank – one for the Congolese Embassy account and the other one her personal account. Her image appears in three identifications in three accounts but two of the accounts at the GN Bank bear her official name (Marie Helen Okitundu Ayaki Omba) and one of the other bears Alexandrine Chacko.
Sources told FPA that the signature appearing in the consular ID card presented to GN Bank is not the same signature that Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba is always using to sign either in the Democratic Republic of Congo Embassy’s account as well as in her personal account or on DR Congo official documents.
Collusion with GN Bank
Sources informed FPA that Madam Marie Omba allegedly connived with some employees of GN Bank to open the suspicious account in order to enable her to divert funding from the Congolese Government that was intended for payment of rent owed by the Embassy.
A letter which was sent to the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment dated July 5, 2016, under the signature of Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba, in the possession of FrontPage Africa confirmed to LBDI that the embassy is leasing a two-story building situated on 16th street Sinkor, Coleman Avenue.
According to her letter, the embassy is leasing the building from Mr. Alexander Chacko for a total amount of US$40,000.00 annually (Forty Thousand United States Dollars annually).
Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba noted in the letter that the embassy was leasing the building for two years, from May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2018, and that full payment for these years is to be paid in the first year of leasing.
A lease agreement between both parties also in the possession of FPA corroborate the payment plan as stated by the Head of Mission.
Mr. Chacko is said to have received US$20,000 (Twenty Thousand United States Dollars) immediately after the signing of the lease agreement and later took a loan of US$60,000 (Sixty thousand United States Dollars) from LBDI using the Embassy of Congo as a guarantor to repay the loan to his account.
The letter further reads: “ Based on the instruction from Mr. Alexander Chacko, the Embassy of the DRC hereby assure that the balance payment due Mr. Chacko in the amount of United States Dollars Sixty Thousand (US$60,000.00) on the said property will be remitted to his account number 001USD40189720101 with the LBDI on or before 1st July 2017. We also assure you our full responsibility to settle the full amount specified time.”
Failure to Pay LBDI
FrontPage Africa has learned that despite the commitment made in the letter, the bank is yet to receive its money from the Embassy. Loan officers from LBDI are constantly turned away by Embassy security personnel whenever they visit the embassy to meet the embassy officials.
Sources informed FPA that based on the lease agreement with Mr. Alexander Chacko and the Embassy, the Charge d’Affairs e Pied allegedly masterminded the opening of a different account at GN Bank in the name of Alexandrine Chacko (instead of Alexander Chacko) to enable her to divert the lease payment to her personal use.
Sources said Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba has been allegedly withdrawing money from the Embassy official account intended for rent payment and other expenses and diverting the money to the suspicious account and her personal account.
GN Bank confirms account
Contacted by FPA, the Managing Director of GN Bank Liberia Mr. Joseph K. Anim indicated to this paper that although he was completely unaware of the suspicions account or transactions when he took over the bank, but after receiving tipoff from FPA, his initial investigation points to several issues that should not be tolerated in the banking system. He said he has blocked all accounts associated with the Congolese Embassy pending a full-scale investigation by the bank.
He further told FAP that the Congolese Embassy was also owing to his Bank over six thousand United States Dollars and that he immediately withdraw said amount from the Embassy ’s account after FPA alerted him about its investigation.
FPA denied access to DRC embassy
FrontPage Africa was denied several times from having access to Madam Marie Helene Okitundu Ayaki Omba for comments. Securities at the Embassy were given straight instructions not to allow any pressmen enter the premises of the Embassy. Efforts to reach out to other officials via mobile phone proved futile but a man only identified as Paul Okitanguo promised three times via mobile phone to get in touch with the Head of Mission in about two weeks before calling back our reporter. However, Mr. Okitanguo or any DR Congo Embassy official did not call our reporter as he promised up to the publication of this article.
It can be recalled that on October 10 and 31, 2016, the Liberia Bankers Association published a list of delinquent borrowers that owed her member banks thousands of dollars in Liberian and United States Dollars. The list also included the DRC Embassy near Monrovia as one of the debtors to Ecobank Liberia. Investigation continues.