-Defense witness Siryon raises contention about recording contents
The Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia will on today, October 31, 2019, become a place of interest where government lawyers will be releasing the surreptitiously obtained audio recording of Ambassador Augustine Weah’s meeting in the office of Duannah Siryon, the suspended National Housing Authority (NHA) managing director.
Amb. Weah, who is believed to be a relative of President George Weah, was heard allegedly on the recording saying that the management of a Burkina Faso-owned company, GELPAZ-IMMO, through one of its citizens, Emmanuel Tabsoba, the company’s representative to Liberia, offered US$80,000 to Siryon.
The highly contested and litigated controversy hinges on the contents of multiple tapes of recorded phone conversations in the office of Siryon, alleging that the tapes contained voices of Siryon and Amb. Weah, arguing about an unequal distribution of the US$80,000 among key government officials, which included President Weah and the three executives of the NHA.
In that recording, Amb. Weah was said to have proposed to GELPAZ-IMMO’s officials that President Weah had asked him to prevail on the company to give the President a share of US$400,000 before approving the project.
“US$100,000 was allotted for Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean; US$20,000 for Finance Minister Samuel Tweah; Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill was to receive US$20,000, while the NHA was to pocket US$100,000,” the audio quoted the purported conversation.
GELPAZ-IMMO’s executives had been in the country to sign the pilot project for the construction of 500 units of the 50,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA)-Monrovia Highway.
However, the government is prosecuting Siryon, together with his two deputies, which included Isaac Roberts, NHA Deputy Director for Technical Services, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, deputy manager for administration, and Amb. Weah for soliciting US$92,000 as a bribe for the company to win the project.
According to Judge Blamo Dixon, the content of the recording was made legally, “because of implied consent; that is to say, both prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to the recording, which the government’s case rests on to bring the charges against the defendants.”
Amb. Weah’s allegations resulted in discord in the government, forcing President Weah to suspend Siryon and his two deputies at the NHA.
Besides, President Weah invited Siryon and Amb. Weah to his Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) offices, where Siryon’s and Amb. Weah’s phones, now at the center of the recording, were taken away from them for further investigation.
Moreover, the police investigative report also claimed that Siryon voluntarily provided the recording to the investigators, but Siryon denied the claim.
However, Siryon, during his testimony, alleged that he is questioning the qualification of the testimonies provided by the police, “because it is far from the truth.”
“Furthermore the police also alleged that I gave them a recording when, in fact, I never had a phone or any device; that in itself is a contradiction,” Siryon said, a claim which, in his testimony, prompted the request of the judge to publicly release the audio recording.
Siryon continued, “At no point in time did the police’s investigation present me an audio recording to confirm my involvement in the deal. In fact, I was under pressure to provide an answer in the absence of my counsel at the police station.”
By that testimony, Siryon repeatedly argued: “I keep saying that there were many other recordings prior to November 20, 2018, recording, and I know my voice when I hear it.”
He added, “I have listened to comments attributed to me on the recording, which is far from the truth and I am prepared to prove my innocence.”