Liberia: ‘Royal Gold’ Linked to Having “Close Personal Relationship to VP Taylor”; Being in Possession of Liberian Diplomatic Passport
MONROVIA – Popular Liberian businessman nabbed in the United States for wire fraud amounting to over US$7 million could not secure a bail bond as the court has taken into consideration several factors, including his possession of a Liberian Diplomatic passport and his very close ties with the Liberian government.
Sheik Bassirou Kante, popularly known in Liberia as Royal Gold was arrested at his home in the United States on April 20 and was duly charged with money laundering conspiracy. He was picked up just a few hours before his scheduled departure from Dulles International Airport in Washington to the United Arab Emirates on a one-way ticket.
He has since been in pre-trial detention but was opting for bail. However, the U.S. Court ruled that the United States government had established by a preponderance of the evidence that no condition or combination of release conditions could reasonably assure his appearance in court as required.
In a written Order, Judge Timothy J. Sullivan found that the weight of the evidence against the Bassirou was strong and that he was subject to a lengthy period of incarceration if convicted. He is also subject to removal from the United States through deportation after serving his full term if convicted.
A Holder of Diplomatic Passport
The Judge at the same time emphasized that Bassirou, alias Royal Gold, possessed multiple passports from various countries as well as fraudulent identification documents. He had unexplained assets and sources of large amounts of money and had close ties to government governments – particularly, the government of Liberia.
“The Defendant’s ties to Liberia, moreover, are especially deep. The email search warrant production revealed that the Defendant has a close personal relationship with the Vice President of Liberia. Moreover, during the execution of the search warrant at the Defendant’s residence on April 20, 2022, agents discovered that the Defendant was in possession of a Diplomatic Liberian passport. That the Defendant, who occupies no formal diplomatic position within the Liberian government (a fact the Defendant admitted at the detention hearing), was nonetheless in possession of a Diplomatic Liberian passport is powerful evidence of the strength of the Defendant’s connections to the highest levels of the Liberian government. The Defendant is, after all, a citizen of Liberia, not the United States. A connection like this, therefore, only enhances the Defendant’s already elevated risk of nonappearance,” Judge Sullivan noted.
FrontPageAfrica has not been able to establish how Royal Gold who is not an employee of the Liberian government and neither does he work for any of Liberia’s foreign missions obtained a Liberian diplomatic passport.
A diplomatic Passport is a class of passports that may be issued or be granted only to persons or individuals who are or may be required or assigned to represent the Republic of Liberia as a Diplomatic agent in foreign nations.
In 2020, the United States homeland security denied the former Director of Passport, Mr. Andrew Wonplo and his family entry into the United States over alleged corruption and passport fraud.
Mr. Wonplo, however, later in an audio recording by him, implicated the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbezohngar Findley and President George Weah in the passport fraud.
Wonplo was accused of selling blank passports and alleged most of the passport he issued was directly under the instruction of Minister Findley at the time and President Weah.
Close Ties with the Liberian Government
It is also not clear what the U.S. authorities meant by Basssirou had “close personal relationship with the vice president of Liberia.” This, according to them, was discovered after they obtained a warrant to search his email.
In Liberia, he is known to be a friend of President Weah.
When the Weah-led government came under fire in February for reportedly paying up to US$230,000 to popular Nigerian musicians, PSquare, to perform at the Bicentennial Celebration, much to the disappointment of the local musicians, the government clarified that the bringing in of PSquare was a gesture offered the government by Bassirou as his contribution to the Bicentennial celebration. Several pictures of him and the Nigerian stars in a private jet subsequently surfaced on social media.
He also offered to shoulder the funeral cost of all 29 persons who died during a stampede in New Kru Town early this year.
Bassirou also presented to the management and team of the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, a total of 100 bags of 25kg rice and 100 gallons of oil as means of appreciation.
Assets Frozen by Liberian Government
Meanwhile, the government, through the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia, has secured a freezing order on the accounts Bassirou and the managers of his company. The accounts were frozen at 10 Liberian Banks.
According to a court document in the possession of FrontPageAfrica, the government sought the freezing order on the business and personal accounts, held by Royal Gold Trading Company INC., its CEO Sheikh Bassirou Kante, and managers Gabriel Itoka and Kpadeh T. Jackson within the banks for factual and legal reasons.
The banks include SIB Liberia Limited, Guarantee Trust Bank Liberia Limited (GTBank), United Bank for Africa (UBA), Eco-Bank, Access Bank, International Bank (Liberia) Ltd., Liberian Bank for Development & Investment (LBDI), Afriland Bank and City Trust Bank, Global Bank.
The government noted that Royal Gold Trading Company INC., located in Sinkor, Montserrado County, was registered on November 9, 2021, to conduct post-harvest crop activities in Liberia.
According to the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Intelligence Unit, its preliminary investigation has established that Royal Gold Trading Company INC. is operating contrary to its purpose of establishment; and has been involved directly and or through its CEO in questionable activities, from which suspicious funds are generated, structured, and deposited into its accounts and accounts of its CEO and managers.
At the same time, the petitioners (Ministry of Justice and the FIU) further averred that ROYAL’s CEO has been arrested in the United States of America (USA), on grounds of the alleged commission of wire fraud and money laundering connecting, the proceeds of the crimes of wire fraud and money laundering to a relative of Sheikh Bassirou Kante who has made questionable deposits into Royal’s accounts in Liberia.
The petitioners further noted that from its preliminary investigation, it has probable cause or reasons to believe, that the funds that are currently in the accounts of Royal Gold Trading Company INC., its CEO Sheikh Bassirou Kante and Managers Gabriel Itoka and Kpadeh T. Jackson are proceeds of crime which is a fit subject for a freeze by the Provisional Remedies Law of 2013 and the Money Laundering Act of 2012 of the Republic of Liberia.