MONROVIA – A FrontPageAfrica investigation has established that Solicitor General Cllr. Syrennius Cephus and the Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court, Jomah Jallah, have been holding telephone conversations with a key suspect in the money laundering case involving Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability Company, which was recently listed by the Financial Intelligence Unit as a shell company operating in Liberia.
The company has been indicted for money laundering, theft of property, wired fraud and criminal conspiracy.
Those indicted are Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability Company through its president and corporate agents, Evgeny Nikisuik, Diega Patrick Wahi Hermann and others to be identified.
“That Co-Defendant Korlane Investment Limited Liability Company has perpetrated fraud by instituting scant and dubious deals by using Visa and Master cards, and processing miscoded gambling and or illegal gambling transactions in which accumulated hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars transferred to Guarantee Trust Bank (Liberia) Limited through dubious transactions,” stated the indictment, among other things.
Cephus, Jomah under Spotlight
Documents seen by show that the Solicitor General who is supposed to try those indicted in connection to this major fraud and money laundering on twenty-three occasions placed and received phone calls from Patrick Wahi Hermann who is believed to be a major suspect in the scandal. These calls were placed between December 2021 and January 5, 2022.
For Judge Jomah Jallah, FrontPageAfrica established that there were 115 incoming and outgoing calls between him and Co-Defendant Patrick Wahi Hermann between December 2021 and January 5, 2022.
In some instances, the numbers of both men appeared in a row as incoming calls to the suspects and in other instances, both of them were called in a row by the Co-Defendant.
Judge Jomah could not be reached for comments, but Solicitor General Cephus told FrontPageAfrica that as a lawyer of his stature, he could not provide a response as why the calls placed and received to Patrick until FPA shared with him documents in its possession.
He further failed to confirm or deny whether or not and why he placed and received those calls.
FrontPageAfrica’s investigation further established that Patrick Hermann is believed to be the leader of the black money market in Liberia and has a strong contact with key actors in the judiciary including the Solicitor General, thereby, using these contacts to help shield money launderers and helping them get cleared through the court system.
The call records involving the Solicitor General and the Monrovia City Court judge bring to memory the recent leaked WhatsApp message reportedly from the office of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith to the Liberian Ambassador in the United States that revealed that the Solicitor General and Judge Jomah Jallah’s records were being looked into for corruption.
The WhatsApp message which Minister of State Nathaniel McGill confirmed was forwarded to him by Amb. George Pattern reads: “Further to our conversation the other day, I have made some inquiries. The prosecution of Alexander Cummings on what appears to be trumped up charges has not been well-received. There is renewed interest in Nathaniel McGill, whom you know from our previous conversations there is a dossier on. Now Benoni Urey and his daughter Telia have also attracted attention, as has the Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus. I think people are also looking into the judge’s record, to see if he has a history of corruption. Just wanted to let you know, based on our relationship. Other than that, I hope you have a good weekend.”
Korlane Investments Liberia Limited Liability Company was recently designated a as a high-risk money Laundering shell company set up for what appears to be the sole purpose to laundering the proceeds of crimes generated through fraud, a predicated offense for Money Laundering.
According to the indictment, On October 12, 2021, the company filed an Articles of Incorporation with the Liberia Business Registry to engage in providing ICT Consultancy, project management and supervision, project monitoring and evaluation, digital solution for revenue collection, among others.
In October 2021 when Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability Company was established up to December 12, 2021, a little over US$500,000.00 was transferred directly from Master and Visa Card holders’ members from Ecuador and Slovakia directly into the local account of Korlane Investment Liberia Limited Liability Company.
“In order to effectuate this dubious transactional activities, between the period of September 1, 2021 to December 17, 2021 or thereabout, the Co-Defendants used the business records of Korlane Investment Limited Liberia Liability Company and opened a current account with GT Bank Liberia Limited on account number 0123686/002/0001/000 through which it milked hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars by using miscoded gambling and or illegal gambling transaction, by manipulating Visa and Master cards transactions wiring the huge sum of money,” the indictment stated.
According to the indictment, Co-Defedants Evgene Nikisuit, Patrick Hermann Wahi Diega and others to be identified created the company as a vessel and shell to project and carryout these dubious transactions by laundering hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars in its GT Bank account and other banking institutions in Liberia.
Under Uncle Sam’s Eagle Eyes
The indictment and the call logs involving the Solicitor General and a judge come just weeks after the administration of US President Joe Biden unveiled steps to combat corruption globally, including assistance to foreign governments to increase financial transparency and new regulations on U.S. real-estate purchases to prevent money laundering.
The United States Strategy on Countering Corruption outlines steps for cracking down on criminal actors and their networks while improving cooperation between federal agencies—including the State Department, Treasury, Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development—and law enforcement.
The 38-page policy released In December lays an emphasis on anticorruption efforts.
The Biden administration has said that corruption breaks down public trust, deepens economic and political inequality and degrades the business environment. The White House has cited estimates that acts of corruption cost between 2% and 5% of global gross domestic product though didn’t provide more details.
Last May, Mr. Michael McCarthy, the US Ambassador to Liberia called for workable laws to be enacted by the Liberian Legislature to improve AML/CFT laws to international standards, as the Intergovernmental Action Against Money laundering in West Africa (GIABA) prepares to conduct mutual evaluation of Liberia next year (2022).
The US Ambassador said the protection of the financial integrity of Liberia cannot be overly emphasized, as the second mutual evaluation has gained momentum; as evidence by the finalization of the National Risk Assessment Report recently by FIU and other stakeholders.
The Ambassador has also been pressing the FIU to distribute the risks and vulnerabilities identified in the National Risk Assessment Report to banks and other financial institutions that need to be in full compliance with the AML/CFT regulations in Liberia.
Ambassador McCarthy has also called for full compliance of AML/CFT laws by all actors in every sector, as the second mutual evaluation by GIABA could determine the integrity and credibility of Liberia’s financial system.
He added that failure of the Liberian Government to provide financial support and strengthen the AML/ CFT regime, could pose serious threat on the Liberian economy, money transfer and sustainability of investments in Liberia because; the alternative to not prioritize the work of the FIU, could yield unfavorable effects on the country to include Liberia being blacklisted and branded as a safe haven for criminals and their enterprises.