Foreign Businessmen Nabbed for Power Theft

The government of Liberia has arraigned before the Monrovia City Court Lebanese and Turkish nationals, who were allegedly caught stealing power from the national electricity grid.

Defendants Shouki Eid, a Lebanese national and owner of the Eid Supply Center in the Freeport Community, Bushrod Island, Monrovia, and Fuat Gebara, a Turkish national and general manager of the Gebara Business Center, located in the same area, were forwarded to the court by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP). The accusation was brought against them by the Security Manager of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) Patrick S. Nyumah.

The appearance of the two comes after the LEC management also disclosed earlier this week that the government owes the corporation US$5 million for the supply of power while private individuals and officials of government were using electricity without payment to the corporation.

Surprisingly, while the crime of power theft should have had very grave consequences on people accused of being involved, the defendants, Eid and Gebara, were released at the request of several Liberian lawyers who converged at the Temple of Justice, soliciting money from the Lebanese and Turkish nationals to make sure the two do not end up in the Monrovia Central Prison.

The crime of power theft is a bailable offense, meaning that an accused can post a cash or property bond to prevent him or her from entering jail. The case of Eid and Gebara, the court document claims, has too much evidence to convict them of the crime of power theft, for which they are charged if the matter is not compromised at the Monrovia City Court.

Pointing to some pieces of evidence, the court records claimed that during the police investigation, both Eid and Gebara admitted that their businesses were illegally connected to the power grid of LEC. As for Eid, the record alleges that he was illegally connected to the power grid by a non-employee of the LEC, and he has been using the current free without paying a dime to the corporation for over five years, until the act was discovered by the Energy Monitoring Team of the LEC, on August 31, 2021.

To defend his criminal act, the document claims that when Eid appeared for the investigation, he provided a previous payment receipt authenticating that he was in compliance with payment for the energy he was consuming. Unfortunately for Eid, those receipts he provided were dated since 2016, when he had just been connected.

Even though Eid informed the investigation that he was using his private generator to provide current for his business, the Investigation claimed his justification was far from the truth, and it was discovered that his business center was connected directly to the power grid for years, amounting to about US$10,000 worth of electricity for the period his business was illegally connected to the grid.

In the case of Gebara, the court document claims that his business was first connected legally to the LEC power grid and he has been paying the bill since.  However, it was discovered later by the Energy Monitoring Team of the LEC that since March 2021, he chose to have himself connected directly to the power grid; meaning he was getting free electricity without paying the bills.

When he was confronted by the team, the document alleges that Gebara admitted not paying the bill because the management of LEC failed to provide him with the bill, although he is aware that his business was using the current without paying for it. The Investigation also claimed that the illegal connection was carried out with the knowledge and consent of Gebara, at which time he had used the current for the period of five months without payment, making this criminal act to defraud the LEC of US$2,318.18.

That money, the court record claims, was verified from the payment receipts collected from the LEC system, though Gebara alleged that it was his financial accountant that was responsible for the LEC transaction. Meanwhile, the defendants were released and there is no date set for them to return to the court, as the Ministry of Justice ( MoJ) could not disclose when it is prepared to bring a criminal Indictment against Eid and Gebara.