-In US$5M Economic Sabotage Case
Days after surrendering to the jurisdiction of Criminal Court ‘C’ by filing a criminal appearance bond in the ongoing US$5 million economic sabotage case, the Afriland First Bank may likely find itself in serious trouble again were Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay accept the government lawyers’ argument that the bond is marred with irregularity.
The bank is expected on today, Thursday, July 23, to make its first court appearance and to justify the bail secured on their behalf by the Sky Insurance Company.
If government lawyers’ argument of irregularity against Sky Insurance Company is proven, then, Judge Gbeisay would not recommend any prison punishment for any officials of the bank, as it is done in the case of an indicted individual. Instead, the judge will deny the surety of the bond and subsequently demand another bond immediately, the failure of which could likely lead to harsher punishment, preferably an incarceration.
The government is claiming that out of the US$5,062,419, the amount of US$102,000 was allegedly transferred into bank’s bogus and purported accounts by two Czech Republic brothers, Pavel and Martin Miloschewsky through Senate Secretary Nanborlor Singbeh for investment purposes to the bank, but the transaction did not take place and the money was mismanaged, of which the government is now holding the bank responsible for restitution.
In their argument, the government said, the bank’s surety, Sky Insurance Company, is not qualified to be the surety for the bank, because it (Sky Insurance Company) has no current business certificate, meaning it has not renewed its license that should qualify it to do bond business for the year 2020.
The prosecution also argued that the Sky Insurance Company did not attach to the criminal appearance bond any official receipt of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), the regulator of insurance companies, to the criminal appearance bond filed for co-defendant, Afriland First Bank, on June 17, 2020.
They further argued that the insurance company’s license to operate in the country expired since June 14, 2020. “Hence, its annexation to the criminal appearance bond filed on behalf of the co-defendant, Afriland First Bank, on June 17, 2020, is not legitimate, having expired, thereby making the bond null and void,” the government lawyer’s contention claimed.
They added that, “the articles of amendment is invalid, because the notary certificate annexed to it is undated and unsigned by the notary public whose name, S. Peter Doe-kpar, appeared on the bond.”
In counter argument, the bank said though the insurance company’s license expired since June 14, 2020, had it not been for the current health situation (COVID-19), Sky would have had same renewed on time.
They further argued that the CBL has not withdrawn, suspended or cancelled the authority of the surety operation, because of the expiration of its license.
They further argued that, since the declaration of the State of Emergency (SOE) in Liberia as a result of the COVID-19, many public and private institutions including the Liberia Business Registry (LBR), as well as the CBL operations, had ceased or scaled down by parity of reasoning. They and other tax payers would not obtain their current business registration certificate and or licenses on time, when the institutions to issue same are not operating at all or at full capacity, as in their case.
“In fact it became apparent for government to relax and or suspend many revenue generation activities that were being enforced, such as annual vehicle registration,” the bank argued, adding that therefore, the license is adequate and should be accepted.”
Initially, the government claimed that the US$5,062,419.10 was in both cash and equipment and that the cash portion that was transferred through both the Ecobank-Liberia and Afriland First Bank. But the company was never established and the equipment was also sold by Singbeh and his co-defendants.
The Miloschewsky brothers claimed that US$2,495,109 was also transferred to one of the purported bogus accounts created at Ecobank-Liberia. The indictment alleges that on August 13, 2013, Singbeh opened two corporate current accounts in favor of MHM Eko-Liberia, Inc. at Ecobank-Liberia Ltd and Afriland First Bank, again without the knowledge and consent of the majority shareholders, Pavel and Martin.
Singbeh allegedly named Ales Sranmek as chairman and director, and Karel Socher as director and secretary, with the signatures of both Socher and Sranmek on the banks’ documents. Initially, Singbeh was not a signatory to the new corporate accounts at both EcoBank and Afriland First Bank. The document also claims that no officials of the banks, EcoBank and Afriland First Bank signed the new corporate accounts.
The court records also claimed that Singbeh manipulated the opening of the account, indicating that Ales Sranmek and Karel Socher were physically present in Liberia when the two accounts were opened at both Ecobank Liberia Limited and Afriland First Bank. On the contrary, the database travel records on Ales Sranmek showed that he (Sranmek) has never traveled to Liberia before and that only Karel Socher had come to Liberia on three occasions with entry-exit dates. The three times Socher came to Liberia, according to the document were; January 3, 2018, to February 7, 2018, April 20, 2018, to May 25, 2018, and September 21, 2018, to October 5, 2018.
Therefore, the document claims that both Karel Socher and Ales Sranmek were not in the country (Liberia) at the time of the opening of the account by Singbeh at Ecobank and Afriland First Bank. “Sranmek and Socher were not in Liberia when the December 11, 2013 resolution was reached by Singbeh and Gloria Caine,” the document alleges. It also claims that Singbeh, in furtherance of his alleged criminal manipulation of the systems, opened two purported and or fraudulent accounts at Ecobank Liberia Limited and Afriland First Bank, supposedly in the name of the company with both account numbers: Ecobank # 005-101-472-277-820-1 and Afriland Bank #020-121-980-103, with co-defendant Karel Socher, as signatory ‘B’. The record alleges that, after opening the two accounts, Singbeh convinced the Miloschewsky brothers, who later deposited the US$2,495,109 and US$102,000 into the bogus and purported accounts.