About two days after George Haddad, a prominent Lebanese businessman, was arraigned before Criminal Court ‘C’ and subsequently released on US$1.3 million bail, the Government has informed the court of its intention not to pursue the case.
The government did not give any reason for its action to drop the criminal charges that included theft of property by deception, which if convicted, carries an imprisonment of up to five to ten years and restitution against Haddad and his co-defendants including Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, a former presidential candidate.
As the doubt linger on the minds of many, legal experts and others wonder whether the government did not have enough evidence to go into the merit of the case.
It is yet to be established whether or not Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, a Nigerian investor and group chairman of CIL Risk & Asset Management Limited (CRAM), a Nigerian Investment and fund management company, was aware of the government’s decision.
CRAM is an associate company of Mutual Benefits Assurance PLC, the parent company of Mutual Benefits Assurance Company Liberia that entered into the contract with DAS Holding Inc.
Ogunbiyi had initially claimed that he transferred US$253,100 through Ecobank Liberia Limited to DAS Holding Inc jointly owned by Haddad and Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, which money was intended for DAS Holding Inc to purchase and sell rice, sugar and cement on the Liberian market.
And the proceeds that the government claimed amounted to US$891,641.57 with the deduction of CRAM’s initial investment of US$253,100, while the remaining amount would have been distributed between DAS Holding Inc and CRAM at an agreed percentage rate of 65 for CRAM and 65 percent to DAS Holding Inc, which the government is alleging that DAS sold the commondities and misapplied its proceeds including the loan investment.
While eagerly waiting for justice , the Ministry of Justice wrote the court informing it that they were entering a nolle prose qui, (dropping the case) against the defendants,but reserve the right to refile or to take up the matter in the future.
The communication reads: “The Ministry of Justice informs your honor and this honorable court that it herewith enters a nolle prose qui in the captioned case reserving the right to refile.”
It is not clear what necessitated the government’s abrupt change of decision, though it has boasted of having overwhelming pieces of evidence to convict Haddad and his alleged collaborators, including Prof. Mason.
However, this paper has reliabily learned that the decision to drop the case was based on evidence gathered linking the government to the sale of the commondities.
Meanhile, Prof. Mayson, in an interview with journalist Alexander Bealded, laid bare his innocence, stating that he had invested about 250 United States Dollars in the deal to import a consignment of rice into the country. The deal went sour when their warehouse which had been borrowed by the then President Ellen Sirleaf to house some goods for the Group of 77, was not turned over to them as per the agreement struck with the President. The Company supplying the rice declared that Prof. Mayson and co. were in breach of the contract. The Suppliers cashed the LC. The only recourse left to the Prof. and his colleagues was to pursue arbitration in London — a course of action which seems to still be open to them.
When questioned as to why one of the partners, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, would join Government in a suit against them, Prof. Mayson stated that he, like Dr. Ogunbiyi, was an “absentee investor”, both of them being resident in Nigeria. So there are various questions Dr. Ogunbiyi may want answered which Mr. Haddad, being the one on the ground, is best suited to answer.
Unfortunately, the court documents quoted the government that DAS Holding Inc allegedly sold the commodities and failed to honor the agreement that called for distribution of expenses and profits that would have been raised from the sale in a percentage of 65 to DAS Holding Inc and 35 for Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi’s company, CIL Risk & Asset Management Limited, (CRAM) a Nigerian Investment and fund management company.
The government had boastfully indicted Haddad and Prof. Dew Tuan Wleh Mayson, Patricia F. Fahnbulleh, Cape Maritime and Bridgeway Corporation and vowed to convict them on volume of evidence in their possession during the trial.
The case grew between 2008 and 2019 when CRAM entered into the loan agreement with DAS Holding Inc owned by Haddad and Mayson, which CRAM’s Group Chairman: Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, a Nigerian national, is opting for restitution and other legal fees.
Defendant Haddad, who was the only person to have been arraigned before the court, admitted to the contract but said it was the government that confiscated the commodities and subsequently sold them withholding the proceeds and the loan investment, an accusation the government was expected to resist.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CRAM and DAS reached the court after CRAM claimed that DAS failed to make full disclosure as to the profit generated from an investment of US$200,000 and refund of the additional operational expense by CRAM.
CRAM claimed that on June 3, 2008, they entered into a Memorandum of Understanding MoU between DAS for DAS to secure the contract to supply the commodities that include (rice, sugar cement among other) on the local market.
They agreed that fund to realize from the sale of the commodities should have been disbursed on the following basis: Repayment of cost of goods and loans to CRAM, disbursement of expenses account, and distribution of profits between DAS and CRAM at the percentage rate of 65percent and 35percent representively.
And, it was based upon the agreement that CRAM made available to DAS Holding Inc the amount of US$253,100 representing the following: US$200,000 as advance payment on July 1,2008 through the management of Mutual Benefits Assurance Company Liberia at Ecobank Liberia Limited under the captioned ,’Collapse of time Deposit Investment.’
Later, CRAM claimed that for them to import the first consignment of cement to Liberia as was agreed upon, CRAM incurred additional expenses totaling Naira 12 million or its equivalent of US$53,100.
The court records claim that DAS failed to account for the amount from July 1, 2008 to January 31,2021, and a 10 percent per annum was accrued, totaling US$638,541.57, thus making the total of US$891,641.57.