The Global Fund theft case involving National Drug Service (NDS), finance officer, Wesley Jlue has reached the corridors of justice in Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice.
The Global Fund is the world's largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB and malaria programs and by mid-2012 had approved funding amounting to US$ 22.9 billion that supports more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, including Liberia.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates was one of the first private foundations among many bilateral donors to provide seed money for the project.
NDS is the custodian of the Global Funds in the country. It is also responsible to supply and sell drugs including HIV/AIDS and TB medications to public and private health centers.
Defendant Jlue is accused of stealing US$179,283.06 from the Global Fund’s account managed by NDS at Ecobank.
Jlue denied the claim when he first appeared before Judge Yussif D. Kaba of Criminal Court ‘C’, thereby shifting the burden of proof on to the prosecutors.
But, testifying yesterday as first prosecutors’ witness, NDS managing director, Beyan K. Johnson, told the court that sometime in March 2014, NDS received money from Global Fund to support their activities throughout the country.
He did not mention the amount of money received from Global Fund.
The NDS managing director further alleged that before the Global money arrived in the country, NDS had already withdrawn money from its account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) to resolve some administrative issues.
Prior to that, Johnson said, Global Fund instructed them to open an NDS account with Ecobank. He did not explain why Global Fund wanted them to open an account with Ecobank.
Besides the Ecobank, the NDS boss further explained that they opened a Liberian dollar account with the LBDI.
“So, when the Global Fund (money) came we instructed our finance officer, Jlue, to withdraw it from Ecobank and deposit it into our account at LBDI,” the prosecutors’ first witness explained.
“Before that, I took specific interest by recording the amount, the check numbers and the purpose of the checks,” said Johnson without disclosing how many checks were received from Global Fund.
Johnson claimed that he noticed that four of those checks were not deposited into their LBDI account.
“I then wrote Jlue to give me clarification, why those checks were not credited to our operations accounts at LBDI,” the NDS manager stated.
Johnson further alleged that while he was awaiting a response from Jlue, he (Johnson) also wrote the Management of Ecobank to provide reasons why the four checks did not appear in their LBDI account.
“Ecobank later provided me with four checks that had already been endorsed at the bank by Jlue to be deposited at the First International Bank (FIB),” Johnson further claimed.
The FIB management, in response to NDS written inquiry, confirmed that defendant Jlue used the NDS Articles of Incorporation to open an account with the bank, where he allegedly deposited the Global Fund’s Ecobank checks.
In his testimony, witness Johnson also alleged that sometime back, NDS supplied medical drugs donated by the Danish government to ArcelorMittal in the amount of US$11, 345, 00.
The company, according to him, was expected to pay NDS the money for the drugs within 30 days.
Johnson explained that when the 30 days expired and they had not received payment for the drugs, he sent his senior accountant, Wilfred Peter, to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, to the head office of ArcelorMittal, to inquire about the delayed payment.
He said that Peter, on his return reported that the company said the person responsible for payment was on leave.
“So, I wrote the company officially for an immediate explanation about their failure to pay the debt,” Johnson stated.
Johnson alleged that the company responded by sending him the receipt for US$11,345 that was earlier collected by the defendant, but the money again did not appear in any official NDS account, according to the prosecutors’ witness.
The hearing continues.