… In ‘hijacked’ container claim
A Guinean company, Agid Sariu, Siege Social Madina Dispenser BP 2873 Conakry, which is seeking justice from the Government of Liberia to declare it the legitimate owner of a controversial hijacked or stolen container marked AXUI1476111, has rejected Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) request for the Ministry’s name to be dropped from the matter.
The ministry recently filed a request before Judge Kennedy Peabody of Civil Law Court ‘A’ praying the court to drop its name as one of those involved with the case. Initially, the ministry had earlier issued an order to the National Port Authority (NPA) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to release the disputed container to a Lebanese businessman and General Manager of Montserrado Group of Industries, Houssel Kaffel without the concern of the Guinean company. By then, they argued that because their investigation of the Guinean company’s complaint of stolen or hijacked container against Kaffel did not establish any criminality because it was a commercial matter, and far from criminality.
Kaffel is the contractor for President George Weah’s mansion on 9th Street, which is currently under construction. However, the Guinean companies plead with the court not to accept the ministry’s request to be dropped from the case. The foreign company legal team contended that the action is a clever and calculated attempt to terminate the claim of hijack or theft against Kaffel, “because it was the wanton disregard of the law that caused the ministry to release the container to Kaffel.”
According to the company, the ministry’s request is a tacit admission of their failure and refusal to adhere to the rule of law, because the ministry had concluded in its early finding that the dispute between the parties (Guinean company and Kaffel) should be submitted to the judicial forum for scrutiny in order to determine the appropriate outcome of it. They further claimed that while they were awaiting the matter to be transferred to the court as concluded by the ministry, the very ministry arbitrarily released the container to Kaffel’s company, the Montserrado Groups of Industries, without any regard to the rule of law or reference to the Guinean company.
Initially, the ministry’s own findings established that the shipper of the container, Mr. Raze Akhavein, an Iranian born Turkish national general manager of Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd, based in Turkey, gave the original bill of lading to the Guinean company as its consignee. The Guinean company wondered that “It was wrong for the investigators to conclude that no crime was committed and, therefore, the ministry should approve the conclusion to revoke the stay order placed on the release of the container.”
They further argued that the ministry ignored the relevant provision of the Commercial Code governing goods shipped by CIF, which, they claim provides that ”upon the transfer to the buyer of the bill of lading the goods are deemed to be delivered to the buyer, and the title therein passes accordingly to the buyer.” Given the provision of the law, the Guinean company argued that since the ministry found that the Guinean company was the first to be issued a bill of lading by the shipper /seller, the ministry should have concluded that the goods were owned by the Guinean company.
“The shipper or seller’s conduct to have subsequently transferred interest in the same goods which he had already parted title with to a third party, Montserrado Groups Industries, was a theft of the Guinean company property by both the shipper/seller and the Montserrado Groups Industries,” the Guinean company argued, adding “therefore, the ministry is a proper party in this case and should not be dropped because it was its failure to take cognizance of its own law that caused the loss of the goods subject to the litigation.”
The record also claimed that the container was tracked to Madrid, Spain and it was discovered that Mr. Raze unlawfully changed documents bearing the name of 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. 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. 1. 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. 2. 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. 3. The consignor cannot or should not unilaterally cancel the agreement. 4. 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.”