— Craves their interventions to save his life
Journalist Sekou Sheriff has written the Liberia National Police and the National Legislature sounding out alarms writing that his life is under threat from a Lebanese national, Ali Kobeissi, owner of BMC Business Enterprise, due to one of his unbending quests to unravel a criminal syndicate that is defrauding the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.
In separate petitions delivered to the police and the legislature on Capitol Hill on Thursday, February 16, 2023, Sheriff, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Central Monrovia based Voice of Liberia radio station, said that Kobeissi, has been threatening him since he began an investigation on the business activities of another Lebanese national, Detratar Babandi.
Sheriff, as per his investigation so far, alleges that Babandi has been using officials at the Free Port of Monrovia and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to front for him when importing goods in the country.
“Our investigation has uncovered that Babandi uses those government officials to help him under-declare the value of the goods,” he alleged yesterday while presenting the petitions to the LNP and the Lawmakers as he indulged their intervention in the alleged death threat on his life.
"We have come to inform the authorities of the government that my life is being threatened. A Lebanese businessman is after my life," he said, accompanied by a crowd of supporters. We have the threats through audio in our possession, where he directly called and threatened my life.”
“And the reason he placed the call is we have been investigating his colleague, Detentra Banbandi, who owns Good Luck Hardware Center. During the Tuesday, February 7, 2023 call, Kobeissi Ali mandated that I immediately abandon my ongoing investigation or risk losing my life," the sheriff said.
"Since that day, honorable lawmakers, Ali calls me almost daily to remind me about the threat. There is an audio recording of the call available almost daily to remind me about the threat. There is an audio recording of the call available,” he said in the petition to the legislature.
"I humbly seek your intervention as the people’s representatives to ensure my safety and that justice is served immediately in this grave matter, as I honestly don’t know the next move of Ali against my life.”
Sheriff noted that he had only interacted with Babandi throughout the investigation but doesn’t know from whence Kobeissi comes to have developed such an interest in the case.
He said while the investigation was been conducted, out of the respect for the ethic of journalism that called for balanced reporting, he contacted Banbandi and told him there was a need to get the side of his story with messages sent out to the business man, clearly stating that it was alleged that he brought goods in the country and connived with some people at LRA and Freeport of Monrovia to under declare so as to avoid paying the legitimate taxes to the government.
Sheriff said Banbandi responded by asking for a meeting between them but through his lawyer as he does not want for his name to be mentioned in the public under such circumstances. Sheriff said he and his team rejected the offer, insisting that he should just provide the response to their inquiry if he actually did the act or not.
Not satisfied with the journalist, he said the lawyer of the Lebanese decided to approach the police to issue threats but they could not bow to the antics from both the lawyer and the police. He said it was at that point that Banbandi sent two persons to negotiate for them to drop the investigation in the name of friendship, an overture which was again rejected.
Sheriff said out of desperation and in search of someone to fight his case, Banbandi prevailed on his friend, Ali, owner of BMC, to intervene but instead of it being cordial, Ali came up with direct threat that he was going to deal with him (Sherif) and followed up his action with series of calls as well as boasting that no matter how or where Sherif took his complaint, “the case will not go anywhere”.
Sheriff said alarmingly, Ali is the only Lebanese in Liberia who has a gun and moves around with a siren, which according to him, Ali boasts of and that he can do anything to him (Sheriff) and there will be no repercussions.
Nimba County District #4 Representative, Gonpue Kargon, received the petition on behalf of the legislature and promised to deliver it to the appropriate committee for prompt redress.
Representative Kargon also assured Mr. Sheriff that his communication will surface on the floor of plenary next Tuesday, February 21, 2023 for discussion and subsequent action.
The youthful Nimba lawmaker, who is Chair on the House's Committee on Claims and Petitions, said he will ensure that plenary look into the alleged death threat against the broadcast Journalist.
Meanwhile, LNP Commissioner Unit 105, Prince Davies, received the petition on behalf of the Police Inspector General, Col. Patrick Sudue. He assured Sheriff that the communication will be forwarded to his boss.
Commissioner Davies lauded the VOL CEO and his supporters for the peaceful and orderly manner in which they conducted themselves.