Who Owns The Private Jet?: Liberia’s Opposition Political Parties Accuse Pres. Weah of Secretly Acquiring Own Aircraft
MONROVIA – The controversy surrounding President George Weah’s constant use of a private jet for his foreign travels continues to expand as the opposition political parties believe the President actually purchased the private jet secretly.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The jet with tail identity F-HEBO was first spotted at the Roberts International Airport after President Weah’s January 22 inauguration. It was then speculated that the President had bought the plane for a lofty sum.
However, in reaction to that speculation, President Weah during a program at the Foreign Ministry said his government was quite young and broke that they could not even buy buses, lest to say a private jet.
“The airplane issue is causing problem. We don’t have a bus; how will we buy a $30 million plane? Where do they get this kind of news from? It is not possible for us to buy a plane for $30 million; we are just coming to office,” the President quipped.
“The airplane they are talking about is for my friend, who is the manager of a big company in Burkina Faso. He told me to use it anytime I want to travel because he has seen me use planes owned by Ivory Coast and others. He wants me use a plane that is not labeled to boost my moral, too,” Pres. Weah added.
President Weah played the plane low for a couple of months until it resurfaced at the RIA in November 2018 when he returned from France.
A FrontPage Africa investigation found that the private jet, a Dassault Falcon 900 EX with tail number F-HEBO, which the President had been using took him from Accra on November 15, 2018. However, its flight data stopped before it arrived at the Roberts International Airport.
According to an aviation expert, a lot of private jet owners remove their flight data from the public databases to maintain secrecy about their movements. He, however, noted that such was not illegal.
Purchased, Kept Abroad
As part of their reaction to President Weah’s State of the Nation address, leaders of opposition political parties in Liberia on Monday alleged that the Weah-led administration had acquired the private jet to facilitate the President’s foreign travels.
They said the aircraft was purchased with money from government’s coffers.
“That aircraft is kept abroad to avoid any possible public backlash. They want you to believe the aircraft belongs to a ‘friend’.
“This is false! There is no wealthy person anywhere in the world to be so ‘generous’ as to allow the leader of any nation use their aircraft for every travel. Who bears the cost of maintaining such an aircraft? The President may be thinking that you have no way of determining if the aircraft he flies in regularly was purchased last year. That was part of the criminal loan deals that the president struck last year against growing public outcries,” said Mr. Wilmot Paye, Chairman of the Unity Party on behalf of his colleagues in the opposition.
Code of Conduct Violation
Section 9.1 of the Code of Conduct says “Public Officials and Employees of Government shall not receive nor encourage the giving of any form of bribe or casual gift in connection with the performance of his or her official duties, whether for himself or herself or members of his or her family or any other benefits that could have any influence on his or her professional approach to issues and the discharge of his or her official duties. This shall not include gifts given during traditional ceremonies and celebrations, and fees paid for Lobbying. The Legislature shall enact laws for the regulation of lobbying activities.”
It adds in Section 9.4, “A Public Official or Employee of Government may accept gifts other than casual or token gifts from foreign governments, donors, international or multinational organizations or quasigovernmental organizations closely affiliated or funded by a foreign government but shall promptly declare such gift to his or her superior who shall decide whether the Public Official or Employee of Government may retain the gift or must surrender it to Government.”
On this basis, many believe that President Weah violated the Code of Conduct for not informing the nation about the private jet.
It turned out that the ‘wealthy friend’ in question is Mahamadou Bonkoungou, CEO of EBOMAF, a construction company in Burkina Faso.
It was just few weeks after the reports of the private jet emerged that the EBOMAF Financing Agreement surfaced. It was speedily passed by the legislature and signed into law.
The US$420 million loan financing agreement is aimed at financing the design, construction, and supervision of road corridors in Monrovia (Somalia Drive-Kesselly Boulevard to Sinkor) and northeastern Liberia – Tappita-Zwedru Raod, including Toe Town to La Cote D’Ivoire and Zwedru-Greenville.”
The President came under fire for granting the US$420 million loan to his businessman friend whose plane he has been using for foreign trips and a clear violation of the code of conduct and a conflict of interest.
Despite being signed into law in June 2018, there has been official update on the status of the loan agreement to date.