House Committee Eyes ‘Maximum Penalty’ for Lonestar Cell MTN

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House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay, with approval from members of the House of Representatives, has appointed an 11-man Technical Committee to probe the “recommendations” from the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) regarding Lonestar Cell MTN’s ‘misrepresentation’ on the imposition of the one cent excise tax.

The Committee is also authorized to “seek advice” from the Ministry of Justice on a maximum penalty that should be imposed on the company for lying under oath during the House’s public hearings, an act which is considered perjury under the law.

Those named to the Committee are: Rep. Numene Bartekwa, Chairman; Rep. Worlea Saywah Dunah, co-Chairman; Reps. Prince Moye, Julie Wiah, Clarence Massaquoi, Johnson Toe Chea, Thomas P. Fallah, Corpu Barclay, Jeremiah Koung, Edward Karfiah, and Garrison Yealue.

The Chairperson of the LTA, Angeline Weeks, said “From the reading of the above sections, it can be seen that Lonestar Communications Corporation’s action, as reported by the House’s chief clerk Mildred Sayon, constitutes an act of providing misleading information in the context of section 48 (6) of the
Telecommunications Act. This is because what Lonestar Communications Corporation claimed during the December 2016 hearing(s) is different from its actions after the imposition of the tax.”

The act of lying under oath is a criminal offense, in keeping with Section 12.30 of the Penal Code of Liberia (Penal Law, Liberian codes Revised Volume IV, Title 26, Approved July 19, 1976, and published April 3, 1978).

She added: “It is anticipated that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will address the charge of lying under oath, because it amounts to perjury. If it is determined that Lonestar Communications Corporation perjured itself to the honorable members of the House of Representatives, such action may constitute a material breach of its license, and thus, possible grounds for the suspension, revocation and/or termination as stated in Section 9.1(1) of Lonestar Communication Corporation’s License.”

Madam Weeks further said: “The LTA is of the opinion that it is highly unlikely that service providers will continue to offer unlimited free minutes calling to its customers, while having to pay the one cent per minute excise tax.”

It may be recalled that on Thursday, January 26, the House mandated the MOJ and the LTA to review Lonestar Cell MTN’s action and make “determination and recommendation” for lying under oath.

In December, during the public hearings, the company allegedly lied under oath by saying that the one cent charged per minute would have no effect on its three-day free calls promotion, which caused the House to approve the imposition of one cent in the New Tax Law.

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