Lawyers representing the interest of four Korean businessmen, who accused the National Security Agency (NSA) of manhandling them in their cell and subsequently seizing their clients’ US$247,500 with other valuable properties have filed a US$2,849,000 “action of damages for wrong” lawsuit against the Liberian Government.
The lawsuit filed on August 11, asked the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice to hold the government and the NSA responsible for their wrongful conducts and to pay to their clients an amount of US$348,000 as special damages and US$2,500,000 as general damages.
The lawsuit claimed that in July 2014, the Korean nationals came to Liberia for business at the invitation of one Nasser Aly; a businessman believed to be a Lebanese national residing in the country and engaged in mining and trade in gold.
To ensure Mr. Aly was a legitimate businessman, court documents in the possession of the Daily Observer said, the Korean nationals asked him for a number of documents and pieces of information which, in response to their concern, Aly sent via email and also issued them an invoice on his company’s letter head addressed to one of the four men, identified as Mr. Kim Aleck.
In the letter, the document explained that Aly told Aleck that he had on sale 16 kilograms of gold at the price of US$568,000, which they claimed was written in ink on the invoice and requested 50 percent payment which amounted to US$284,000.
“Upon receiving the document submitted by Nasser Aly and upon further independent inquiry, they found no reason to suspect that Aly was not a legitimate businessman or that the sale and purchase of the gold covered by his invoice could violate any law,” the lawyers argued in their complaint.
The Korean businessmen decided to proceed with the transaction by mobilizing the necessary funds, amounting to the 50 percent required by Mr. Aly.
They alleged that on June 27, 2014, they withdrew the equivalent of U$40,000 from the Kookmin Bank in South Korea, at which time they used US$12,584 to purchase air tickets, while the remaining money was distributed among them, each collecting US$6,854 to travel to Liberia.
The court document claimed that upon their arrival in Liberia, they agreed to purchase 16 kilograms of gold and on July 8, 2014, proceeded with their agent to the International Bank (IB) and withdrew U$247,500 and preceded to their hotel, (City King Hotel) in Sinkor, Old Road in Monrovia where Mr. Aly agreed to meet them to conclude the payment.
Unfortunately, they claimed that while they were at the hotel finalizing the transaction, a group of men, who later identified themselves as agents of the NSA abruptly and violently stormed their hotel room and arrested them.
The NSA agents seized from them the amount of U$247,500, along with other valuable items including gas torch, gold melting dish, two packs of chemicals to test the gold and an electronic gold scale.
“Later our clients were taken to the NSA headquarters where they were stripped naked placed in solitary confinement in dark rooms, and subjected to various forms of humiliation and degradation without any formal charge or they being advised of their rights as required by the law,” court record quoted the lawyers.
They further claimed that, “The government charged them with the commission of crimes of illegal possession of combustible cyanide that posed national security risk to the lives of Liberians, money laundering, counterfeiting, and conspiracy to defraud the government.”
It can be recalled that upon hearing of the incident, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constituted a Special Investigation Committee, headed by Law Professor and Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia, Cllr. David Jallah to investigate the matter.
The David Jallah led committee took testimonies and other evidence from those that were party to the incident and after careful consideration, the committee concluded that the charges levied against the Korean nationals were unfounded and the conduct of the NSA under its agents was illegal and made specific recommendations to the President Sirleaf, including the refund of the money to the Koreans.
The recommendation was accepted by President Sirleaf and accordingly mandated the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to implement them.