Monrovia – The Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia (FIUL) has taken its fight against money laundering and other financial crimes to another level following the confiscation and subsequent turnover of US$284,000 to the Government of Liberia.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Director General of the FIUL Edwin W. Harris said the money was ceased from two institutions – Korlane Investment Limited Liability Company, found guilty of money laundering and an unnamed company operating in Liberia caught evading tax obligations.
In the statement, Mr. Harris said, in November 2021, a source filed a complaint with the FIUL against Korlane Investment Limited Liability Company and its corporate owners; accusing them of wire fraud and money laundering.
The FIU then launched an investigation in line with its mandate and based on reasonable suspicion of money laundering reinforced by findings of preliminary investigations, a freezing order was placed on all the company’s accounts in Liberia.
Thereafter, a full scaled investigation into the allegation was conducted by law enforcement authorities and they found that Korlane Investment Limited Liability Company operated a shell company in Liberia without office and staff, among others. At the same time it opened and used its accounts in Liberia to launder, conceal and direct stolen funds generated through unusual transactions from wire fraud- a predicate crime of money laundering, Harris revealed in the communication.
He further said the investigators found that the ill-gotten funds were usually withdrawn by a foreign national named Patrick Hermann Diega Wahi who came to Liberia to effect withdrawal under the authority of Evgene Nikisuit, Korlane’s account holder.
As a result, in early January 2022, Korlane Investments Liberia Limited Liability Company and its corporate owners including Patrick Hermann Diega Wahi, Evgene Nikisuit and others to be identified were indicted by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County for the crimes of money laundering, wire fraud, theft of property, and criminal conspiracy.
According to him, upon obtaining a writ of arrest by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Patrick Hermann Diega Wahi who had come to Liberia to withdraw the said proceeds, evaded being arrested and fled the country.
Despite Wahi’s escape, the case was called for trial during the May Term of Court based on notice of assignment and the absence of the defendants was noted by the Court; he added.
The court then ruled in favor of a motion to confiscate the proceeds which was filed consistent with the Provisional Remedies Proceeds of Crimes Act 2013. The motion was assigned for hearing and argued and the presiding Judge of Criminal Court ‘C’ granted the motion and ordered the proceeds of over US $234,000 confiscated and transferred in the General Revenue Account of Liberia by the FIUL.
“As mandated by the Court, the FIUL has duly transferred the said amount to the General Revenue Account,” the FUIL boss stated.
On the US$ 50,000recovered from a company operating in Liberia caught evading tax obligations, Harris mentioned that matter was brought to the attention of FIUL by a source. Exercising its powers, the FIUL jointly with the Ministry of Justice, restricted the corporate accounts of the company.
In collaboration with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the said amount was recovered representing tax liabilities of the Company.
And based on mandate from the Civil law Court of Montserrado County, the said amount has been transferred to the Government of Liberia’s general revenue account.
“The FIUL commends the government of Liberia for its demonstrated will to tackle money laundering and at the same time appreciates the public confidence reposed in the FIUL. The FIUL recommits to continue to fight robustly securing Liberia’s financial space from being used by enablers and launderers,” he noted.
The FIU is the agency of the Liberian Government responsible for receiving, requesting, conducting preliminary investigations, analyzing and disseminating information to competent authorities concerning suspected proceeds of crime and terrorist property.
Over a fortnight, the FIU launched its National Strategy and Action Plan on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing. The National Strategy and Action Plan seeks to mitigate the risks identified in the National Risk Assessment (NRA) 2019 report to make Liberia free of terrorist financing and money laundering to enhance investment and development.