The Civil Law Court ‘A’ at the Temple of Justice has given the Ministry of Justice precisely 24 hours to retrieve the controversial “stolen/hijacked” container marked AXUI1476111 and its full content turned over to a Lebanese National, Houssel Kaffel, general manager of Montserrado Group of Industries, and taken back to the Free Port of Monrovia under the jurisdiction.
Judge Kennedy Peabody further warned that “Failure on the parts of the Ministry of Justice and the Lebanese national, respondents (1 and 2), to do so would lead to rendering contempt of court orders against them.”
The ministry and Lebanese businessman Kaffel are to produce the container by today, Friday, June 19.
Judge Peabody’s directive was necessitated by a letter dated June 10, 2020 and signed by Counselor Nyenati Tuan, Acting Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Bill Twehway, ordering the release of the container to the Montserrado Group of Industries contrary to his earlier communication to the parties that it is only the court that would decide the ownership of the container.
Minister Tuan’s June 10 letter states: “We present our compliments and write to inform you in the effect on the 4th day of May 2020, the Ministry of Justice requested your esteemed institution to hold on the delivery of the above-mentioned container pending investigation.”
Tuan’s letter continues, “The Liberia National Police (LNP) conducted an investigation between the representatives of BAF Corporation and Montserrado Group of Industries, relative to the ownership and or any criminal element surrounding the container.”
In conclusion, Tuan directed that “The Crime Services Division of the Liberia National Police conducted an investigation and stipulated that there exists no criminal element. In furtherance, of these, the Ministry of Justice hereby removed the hold placed on the said container.”
Initially, Attorney-In-Fact of a Guinean based company, Agid Sarju Complexe Aro Industrial Dubreka, Mr. Aboubacar S. Balde, filed a complaint against the MoJ and the Lebanese businessman Houssel Kaffel, rejecting Cllr. Tuan’s decision to award the container to Montserrado Group of Industries.
Mr. Balde’s complaint, filed through the Gongloe and Associates Law Firm, accused the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of refusing to exercise its reasonability by ensuring that thorough judicial scrutiny is conducted prior to releasing the container to Montserrado Group of Industries.
Notwithstanding, Blade argued that their formal written complaint was filed with the government through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) pertaining to the diversion and hijacking of the container, “but up to the filing of the suit, the Ministry of Justice is yet to respond to the complaint.”
The law firm cited Section 2.51 (2) of the Liberian Commercial Code, which states, “Upon the transfer to the buyer of a Bill of Lading the goods are deemed to be delivered to the buyer, and title therein passes accordingly to the buyers.”
The container was loaded on February 28, 2020, and later departed Istanbul, Turkey, for Conakry, Guinea; and on March 1, 2020, was shipped by Mr. Raze Akhavein, an Iranian born, Turkish national general manager of Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd, based in Turkey.
Unfortunately, the container was tracked in Madrid, Spain, where Balde claimed he discovered that Mr. Raze unlawfully changed the original owner and destination to Montserrado Group Industries, Monrovia, Liberia.
It may be recalled that in early May 2020, Acting Justice Minister and Attorney General, Counselor Nyenati Tuan, acknowledged through written communication to National Port Authority Managing Director Bill Twehway that a container seized this month at the Free Port of Monrovia was meant for a company known as Agid Sariu, Siege Social Madina Dispenser BP 2873, Conakry, Republic of Guinea.
Minister Tuan said a thorough review of documents has revealed that the container was destined for Conakry, the Republic of Guinea, to Agid Sariu Siege Social Madina Dispenser, but surreptitiously found its way to Liberia via tracking details, which act the ministry was investigating.
Minister Tuan’s letter addressed to Twehway, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, is entitled: “Complaint about Stolen/Hijack of Container #AXIU1476111.”
The letter says: ”We present our compliments and herewith submit to your Honorable Office a facsimile copy of dossier relative to the above-captioned case for your attention and subsequent action. We would therefore appreciate were you to hold in abeyance the delivery of the above-mentioned container pending an investigation.”
It adds: “Partial review of documents reveals that the container was destined for Conakry, the Republic of Guinea, to Agid Sariu, Siege Social Madina Dispenser BP 2873 … but surreptitiously found its way to Liberia via tracking details.
“We would therefore appreciate were you to place a halt on the delivery of the container while the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is conducting an investigation pending a final determination of the matter.”
Initially, Minister Tuan on June 3, 2020, just ten days before turning the container over to Lebanese businessman and national Houssel Kaffel, wrote Cllr. Edwin K. Martin, Montserrado County Attorney, outlining several recommendations about the ownership of the container.
Tuan’s letter to Cllr. Martin reads: “I write to acknowledge receipt of your June 1, 2020, report submitted to my office as Acting Minister of Justice.”
It further reads, ”Having carefully perused various attachments of the source documents and the investigative report inclusive of your findings and recommendation awarding ownership of container AXIU47611 to Montserrado Group of Industries, I am constrained to advance these following concerns or observation.
- There exists a contract with an offer for acceptance and consideration. To cancel the same, it should be done by mutual consent through the court.
- That the Guinean Company, which is a party to this agreement, has made substantial payment amounting to US$306,760.45 for the formation of the partnership; 3. There was an offer, acceptance, and consideration which made the consignor the Bailee of the consignee, pending delivery of the goods.
- The consignor cannot or should not unilaterally cancel the agreement.
- The container complained of is AXUI1476111 and not AXIU467111 as stated in the investigative report, please see (EXHIBIT 2 in BULK) and other attachment to the complaint.
Tuan recommended that “In view of the foregoing, I am requesting that the shipper consignee address the concerns raised above, through judicial means so as to establish ownership of container NO AXIU46711.”
As a diplomatic intervention earlier, the Guinean Embassy near Monrovia on May 12, 2020, sent a transcript note from the Guinean Ministry of Justice signed by Mamadou Lamine Fofana to the Liberia Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The letter, a copy of which is in possession of the Daily Observer, reads: “The Embassy of the Republic of Guinea in Liberia presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia and has the honor to transmit a copy of an attached letter N. 022/MJ/SG/CAB/2020, dated May 12, 2020, from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Guinea addressed to his colleague in Liberia regarding the confiscation of the container No.AXIU1447611 at the Free Port of Monrovia, Liberia.”
The communication continues, “The said container would have been shipped at the port of the Republic of Conakry, Guinea, in conformity with the signed contract on April 27, 2018, between Mr. Balde, the manager of Mufti Agro-Industrial Company and Sarlu of Guinea Law and Mr. Raze Akhavein, the manager of Multi Agro-Industrial Company, Aria, a company established on Turkish law.”
It adds, “With discrepancy, Mr. Reza changed the transit point of the container for it to be shipped in Monrovia with the address of another person, whereby the real proprietor is Mr. Balde, according to the purchasing record attached.”
The letter went on, “The Guinean Justice Minister thanks honestly his colleague of Liberia for the first judicial results recorded in the file and would be pleased to depend on your weight so that the container AXIU can safely arrive in Conakry. All the required documents are herein attached.”
The Embassy, the letter said, “remains in its entirety available to the Ministry of Justice of Liberia for every contributing action to have this container.” Adding, “The Embassy of the Republic of Guinea in Liberia seize this opportunity to renew its higher consideration to the Ministry of Justice.”