The Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF), based in Lyon, France, has removed the names of three Czech Republic citizens who are wanted in Liberia for economic crimes.
The names of the accused were dropped after the Liberia National Police and the Assistant Minister of Justice for Litigation, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh delayed responding to letters from the CCF requesting a status update regarding the case to make informed decisions. After months of being held by CCF, the Czech nationals Karel Socher, Ales Sranmek, and Petr Pesek wrote to have their names deleted from the Interpol system on grounds that the Liberian government was no more interested in prosecuting them.
The CCF then wrote to the government, via the National Central Bureau (NCB), which is the country's law enforcement arm responsible for communicating with INTERPOL, on several occasions seeking updates regarding the status of the case for which the Czech nationals were ordered arrested.
In one of the communications, the CCF said: “Please be informed that the CCF of Interpol general Secretariat has requested the NCB Monrovia to provide information relating to the [Czech citizen case]. The subjects have been on Interpol's red notice for arrest as requested by the NCB Monrovia.” They have applied to be deleted from the Interpol system, and based on their applications’ argument, [we are] requesting the NCB Monrovia to provide legal justification for the retention of the notice.”
However, CCF, having not received responses as anticipated, decided to grant the accused request by deleting their names, effectively canceling the government’s retention notice.
This decision was made after the CCF had warned the NCB Monrovia of its plan of action, which would have been subject to changes, had the government provided the needed information before May 27 — which did not happen — causing the CCF to delete the Czech nationals from the red notice.
The CCF’s May 12 reminder letter, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, reads: “We refer to our previous correspondence in this case and to your message referenced above, and note that, unless we are mistaken, we have not yet received a reply to our messages dated March 15 and 31, April 20, 2022.”
“The commission considered the fact that your NCB has not provided appropriate answers to the questions raised [and] has created a doubt concerning the compliance of the data challenged with the criteria outlined in Interpol’s rules. It held that these doubts concerning the respect of Interpol's rules, prevent it from concluding that the data challenged meets the required criteria.
“Therefore, in view of the elements available to it, the Commission decided that access to the data concerning the Applicants shall be immediately blocked, pending further study of the file. The commission also decided that the data shall be deleted, if no answer to all of its queries is received within 15 days after your NBC is informed of the blocking of the access to the data concerned.
“On May 11, 2022, the Interpol General Secretariat implemented the Commission’s decision by blocking the access to the data provided by your NBC concerning these persons.”
In conclusion, the letter says, “the commission invites your NBC to provide the requested documents and submit answers to the questions raised before May 27, 2022, in order to be able to conduct its study of the case, and inform you that without appropriate answers, the Commission decided that the data provided by your NBC concerning these persons shall be deleted, as it would not be in position to assess their compliance with Interpol applicable rules.”
Arrested in 2021
The Czech citizens were arrested in France and Croatia in 2021 based on a request from the Liberian Interpol office. It was expected that the government would have sought their extradition — allowing them to face criminal prosecution.
The case was filed to the government by two Czech Republic investors, Martin Miloschewsky and Pavel Miloschewsky, who accused Singbeh and their countrymen of colluding with several other co-defendants to dupe them of the money transfer to Liberia for the investment purposes. They were indicted in 2020, but the indictment was dismissed on technical grounds. However, the case was reopened after the government re-indicted the defendants in February 2022.
Cllr. Wesseh is the lead prosecutor in the US$5 million economic sabotage case that involved the Secretary of the Liberian Senate Nanborlor Singbeh, Socher, Sranmek, and Pesek.
In a phone interview with the Daily Observer, Col. Prince Mulbah, the deputy inspector general for crime services, CID, and Interpol Affairs, acknowledged that they received the CCF's request in March; however, he blamed Cllr. Wesseh for what he described as an embarrassment.
“Minister Wesseh is responsible for the elapse of the timeline. He failed to provide the information to the CCF, in France,” Col. Mulbah noted. “We submitted the letter to him, but he did not act. We missed the timeline.”
In counter-response, Minister Wesseh denied Mulbah's accusation that he was responsible for the situation. Wesseh acknowledged receiving the document but said it was given to him in May of this year.
“I received the document in May, but I did not see the content, and I left for a government assignment without reading it,” Minister Wesseh said.
According to Wesseh, the CCF’s first letter was dated March but received the communication on May 24 -- just three days to the deadline for information as requested by the CCF. “If they are blaming me for the situation, they should understand that the letter has been with them since March of this year. What were they doing with it from that time,” Minister Wesseh asked in his own defense.
Immediately, after hearing the CCF's decision, the Czech investor Martin Miloschewsky, on June 21 responded: “I don't understand, what is going on in Liberia? After many years of fighting, I received information like this.”
“And it raises more questions. Why is it so difficult to get justice? Why are investors punished for trying to run a business in the country? Why are criminals protected by courts and police? All this is only damaging Liberia’s reputation and discourages other foreigners to invest.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Patrick Sudue said, “I will not arrest Singbeh. If the court wants Singbeh, they know what to do to arrest him.” IG Sudue was responding to an arrest order submitted to him on April 14, by the Criminal Court ‘C’, in Monrovia, for his endorsement to have the police assist in the re-arrest of some of the defendants, including the Czech Republic fugitives.