Liberia: Indicted Former NHA Officials Plead Not Guilty to Economic Sabotage, Bribery, Other Corruption Charges

Defendants Tugbeh C. Tugbeh (left, in blue shirt) and Duannah Siryon (right, in Silver coat) being escorted by court officers to prison (at the time they were first taken to court)

Monrovia – Indicted former officials of the National Housing Authority (NHA) have pleaded not guilty to the crimes of Economic Sabotage, Bribery, Criminal Conspiracy and other corruption charges brought against them by the State.

The indicted officials made the not guilty plea recently at the Criminal Court ‘C’ where they had been arraigned.

“We are not guilty,” former Managing Director Duannah Siryon and others pleaded.

The defendants’ “not guilty plea” means that they have joined issue with the prosecution to prove all charges leveled against them.

Defendants Siryon, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, Deputy Director for Administration, Isaac Roberts, Deputy Director for Technical Services, Augustine Weah, a purported chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies and Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO Coordinator in Liberia were arrested, investigated and charged by the Liberia National Police for their alleged involvement in the charges brought against them.

Following the police investigation, they were forwarded to court and subsequently indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County to face prosecution.

According to the indictment, a Burkina Faso-based company, GELPAZ-IMMO, through its Chief Executive Officer Alain Z. Zoungana, expressed interest into the growth and development of Liberia through a proposal to construct over 5,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport.

Thereafter, the then Managing Director of the NHA, Co-defendant Siryon was contacted through the company’s (GELPAZ-IMMO) former Coordinator, Emmanuel Tapsoba regarding the company’s intention of building said structures in the country.

The Indictment further mentioned that based on the offer of the company to the NHA, Co-defendant Tugbeh, then Deputy Managing Director for Administration and Patrick H. Delina, Engineer of NHA travelled to Burkina Faso on July 1, 2018  to establish whether GELPAZ-IMMO had the capacity to do the work proposed to the NHA.

The Indictment revealed that while in Burkina Faso, Defendant Tugbeh received 200,000 CFA which is equivalent to US$400 from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO as expensive or upkeep. 

Also, Co-defendant Isaac Roberts travelled to the Burkina Faso on October 24, 2018, at which time, he also solicited 250,000 CFA, when converted is equivalent to US$500 from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO as expensive incurred by him.

“That the act of receiving money from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO by Co-defendants Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Isaac Roberts was against the MOU entered into between NHA and GELPAZ-IMMO, and the Public Procurement and Concession Law of Liberia,” Excerpt of the Indictment reads. 

The Indictment also added that Defendants Siryon, Tugbeh, Roberts and Weah between the periods of August 16 up to and September 16, 2018, conspired and colluded with Co-defendants Tapsoba with criminal minds and intent to dupe the company (GELPAZ-IMMO) and to defraud the Government of Liberia by compromising the value for money work principle.

The Indictment further revealed that the actual work that should have been carried out by the company was undercut by the alleged act of the defendants by receiving the amount of US$80,000 out of the US$92,000 sent to the country on two separate occasions by the company.

“Co-defendant Emmanuel Tapsoba left Burkina Faso with US$50,000 on September 15, 2018 to come to Liberia to soften the ground, and Benao Bazonon also left Burkina Faso with US$42,000 on September 23, 2018, said amount US$42,000 was also given to Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO’s Coordinator, who later turned same over to co-defendant Augustine Weah in the presence of Benao Bazonon for the said purpose.”

The Indictment continues: “On the dates, months and at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia, Co-defendant Siryon received the sum of US$1,000 so as to sign and offer the construction contract to the company (GELPAZ-IMMO), thereby depriving the Government of Liberia out of its much needed revenue generation.”