Liberia: Govt Loses First Corruption Case; Court Says Allegations were “Fabricated”

Mr. Duannah Siryon (in gray jacket) headed the National Housing Authority and was accused of soliciting bribe of over US$80,000 before consummating the contract for the construction of 50,000 housing units by GELPAZ, a Burkinabe firm

MONROVIA – Mr. Dunnah Siryon and his principal deputies at the National Housing Authority were clearly heard on the leaked tape arguing over their dissatisfaction over how some US$80,000 given by GELPAZ, a construction firm seeking to invest in Liberia, was disbursed amongst them.

Dunnah served as Managing Director (MD), his deputies, Tugbe C. Tugbe, Deputy MD for Administration and Isaac C. Robert, Deputy MD for Technical Services, felt shortchanged by Siryon, the argument on the tape suggests.

The tape further suggested that Siryon was soliciting bribe for other high-ranking officials of government including the President, the Minister of State, the Justice Minister and the Minister of Finance.

However, the government’s prosecution team could not establish any of the charges in the indictment, according to the court.

They were indicted for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Bribery, Misapplication of Entrusted and Criminal facilitation 

This is the first corruption case going to court in the Weah-led administration.

The NHA officials were indicted along with two officials of GELPAZ-IMMO, a Burkina Faso-owned company, they are Augustine Weah, chief executive officer (CEO) of Guss Group of Companies, and Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO Coordinator in Liberia.

Mr. Tugbe C. Tugbe who served as Deputy Managing Director for Administration talking to the press after being acquitted by the court

According to the indictment, Tapsoba entered Liberia with an initial amount of US$50,000 on September 15, 2018 from Burkina Faso. The amount was to jumpstart the construction project of 50,000 low-cost housing units.

Also, on September 23, 2018 Benao Bazonon, alias BAZ, believed to be a staff of the company also departed Burkina Faso with the final amount of US$42,000, making the total of US$92,000 Tapsoba and Baz brought into the country for the project

Out that US$92,000, the prosecution claimed, Tabsoba presented the amount of US$80,000 to co-defendant Siryon in the courtyard of the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia, for the purpose of liaising with other purported government officials to complete the contract.

They also claimed that BAZ turned over the US$42,000 to Tapsoba and he gave the money to co-defendant Augustine Weah in the presence of BAZ, according to the indictment.

The prosecution also alleged that upon receipt of the US$80,000, Siryon called co-defendant Augustine Weah aside and gave him US$20,000 out of the US$80,000 to be delivered at Siryon’s office the next working day, and the remaining US$60,000 left with Siryon for onward distribution to other senior staffs.

Mr. Augustine Weah, a relative of President George Weah, was a representative of GELPAZ was also acquitted by the court

The judge, A. Blamo Dixon, was, however, not convinced by the prosecution’s argument and evidence, believing that the allegation was fabricated by the government against the indicted officials.

“The evidence is not just weak, but it is completely empty, fabricated, sentimental, scanty, speculative, frivolous, flimsy, hypothetical, unsubstantiated, vague and indistinct,” he ruled.

According to the judge, the prosecution failed to prove that Siryon received US$80,000 from the GELPAZ representatives, adding that the indictment was “totally defective”.

Judge Dixon: “The prosecution did not prove the essential elements of the multiple crimes levied against the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. The court refused to hold the defendants, because there is no probable cause for them to be held for the alleged charges against them.”

“Whether or not the prosecution proved its case beyond all reasonable? The answer is ‘no’. The prosecution willfully failed to establish its prima facie against the defendants in the absence of Augustine Weah and Emmanuel Taosoba (officials of the Burkinabe firm who allegedly brought the money). There is no evidence at all to convict the defendants. There is no proven evidence because Emmanuel Taosoba and Augustine Weah, [also] defendants, escaped the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia,” Judge Blamo ruled.

“The evidence is not just weak, but it is completely empty, fabricated, sentimental, scanty, speculative, frivolous, flimsy, hypothetical, unsubstantiated, vague and indistinct.”

– Judge A. Blamo Dixon, Criminal Court ‘C’

He continued: “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing and in consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case and the laws controlling, it is the final verdict or judgement of the Criminal Court ‘C’ that Duannah Siryon, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Isaac C. Robert are hereby adjudged not guilty of Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Misapplication of Entrusted property and others. They are hereby set free from further answering to the multiple crimes.”

Augustine Weah, also believed to be a relative of President George Weah, was among those acquitted.