Months after then deputy director-general of the National Lottery Authority (NLA), Agnes Efflong, questioned the legal basis of President George Weah’s nomination of Neved Kortu to replace her while her tenure had not expired, Efflong has been charged in connection to an alleged theft of US$3,102,024.10 and L$432,240, an incident that is believed to have taken place in her capacity as director-general of the NLA.
Madam Efflong is charged, along with suspended director–general, Martin Kollie, director of finance, controller Eric Vaye and an employee, Cecelia W. Sieh. They have been charged with theft of property, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, money laundering, misuse of public money and property.
Criminal Court ‘C’ is yet to arrest those expected to stand trial.
In the court’s records, the government alleges that the act was discovered when the General Auditing Commission (GAC) conducted four comprehensive audits of the NLA during July 1, 2015, up to and including June 30, 2019.
The audit records claimed that while the defendants were in the employ of the NLA and assigned in various capacities, they did not maintain records and documentation for expending budgetary allotments of US$238,726 received from the Ministry of Finance and Planning Development, and that they made several withdrawals from the NTA’s bank accounts domiciled at Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank) in amount of US$295,007.12 without documentation to legally justify the transaction.
The document also alleges that to design the scheme, the defendants paid an annual salary of L$432,240 to two individuals, Isaac Doe and Alice Bardio to be identified, listed on the payroll without employment evidence.
Doe collected L$162,000, while Bardio took home L$270,240 totaling L$432,240.
Fraudulently, the records claimed, the defendants issued Palm Spring Resorts Casino’s license to operate a business within the country and that analysis of bank statement records and NLA official receipts, showed no evidence that the said entity made the required payment of US$60,300 for licensed obtained under the period of said audit.
The document claimed that the defendants obtained two separate loans from Winners Incorporated and Oceano Casino respectively in the amount of US$64,000 under the allege nomenclature of NLA without documented evidence or board approval.
In addition, they claimed that they made multiple payments amounting to US$87,659, which was allotted to several individuals of the NLA rather than the service providers.
Again, the records claimed, the defendants withdrew from the account of NLA at GTBank the amount of US$931,838.57.
In addition, they again received a budgetary allotment of US$345,033 during the period under review, during which time they made multiple payments amounting to US$233,088 to non-employees.
Again, the court’s records alleged that Palm Spring Resort made several payments totaling US$52,450 to obtain Sports Betting and Casino License for the entire period under review.
The record alleges that the management of Palm Spring Sport Betting and Casino was to pay the sum of US$120,600 as government revenue.
The record also claimed that the defendants withdrew US$1,112,484.97 from NLA’s account at GTbank with several undocumented payments of US$255,558.5 to non-employees out of the US$30,500 that was paid by Palm Spring Resort.
“The defendants withdrew US$510,497.78 made as payment received from Palm Spring Resort, US$20,000 issued as Casino license for the entire period of 2018 and 2019,” the document alleges.
It added, “Thereby making the total amount the defendants stole to US$3,102,024.10 and L$432,240.”
It can be recalled that Cllr. Stanley Kparkillen, a lawyer for Effiong, took exception to President Weah’s nomination of Kortu to replace Efflong, and challenged it at the Supreme Court, contending that the action was marred by serious violations of the Constitution.
Cllr. Kparkillen then argued that the appointment of the deputy director-general at the NLA was not within the appointing power of President Weah, but rather one that is reserved for the Board of Directors, “and that the appointment of Neved Kortu to the post of deputy director-general was illegal and unconstitutional.”
Under the Act that created the NLA, the Board of Directors has the power and authority to appoint a deputy director-general for operations as the principal deputy to the director-general for an initial term of two years. Consistent with the mandate, the chairman of the board of directors of the NLA, Claude J. Katta, pursuant to a resolution of the board upon review of the record, appointed Madam Effiong on September 20, 2015, as deputy director-general.