— Third defense witness claims
On Monday, October 28, the third defence witness in the ongoing trial over an alleged bribery scandal at the National Housing Authority (NHA) told Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia that he did not negotiate or receive any amount of US$80,000 from Emmanuel Tabsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO’s representative to Liberia, at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia.
The amount in question was to reportedly award a 5,000 housing unit contract to GELPAZ-IMMO, a company from Burkina Faso.
While in the witness box, NHA’s suspended managing director Duannah Siryon claimed that allegation in the indictment against him as regards receiving US$80,000 is “completely erroneous and far from the truth.”
“At no point in time did I negotiate and receive any US$80,000 at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia from Emmanuel Tabsoba or any GELPAZ’s representatives as speculated,” defendant Siryon said.
The prosecution claimed that to consummate the deal, GELPAZ-IMMO project general coordinator Emmanuel Tabsoba presented the amount of US$80,000 to Duannah Siryon in the courtyard of the Royal Grand Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia, for the purpose of liaising with other purported government officials to complete the contract.
The prosecution also alleged that upon receipt of the US$80,000, Siryon called co-defendant Augustine Weah aside and gave him US$20,000 out of the US$80,000 to be delivered at Siryon’s office the next working day, and the remaining US$60,000 left with Siryon for onward distribution to other senior staffs.
On that issue, during his testimony defendant, Siryon, added, “As I stated in my previous answer, I have not received any US$80,000 from GELPAZ-IMMO or its representatives, neither did I distribute any money between my two deputies.”
Siryon, together with Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, deputy manager director for administration, Isaac Roberts, deputy director for Technical Services (NHA), Augustine Weah, a purported chief executive officer (CEO) of Guss Group of Companies, and Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO Coordinator in Liberia, was charged with the crimes of Economic Sabotage, Bribery, Theft of Property, Misapplication of Entrusted Property, Criminal Conspiracy and Criminal Facilitation in awarding the contract.
Siryon, Tugbeh and Roberts, who are currently being tried, have so far denied the allegation when they were first arraigned before Criminal Court ‘C’ in response to the reading of the indictment which contained their individual charges over the role each of them played in the alleged bribery scandal at NHA.
Further to his testimony, Siryon repeatedly said that the allegation against him is completely false, noting, “I never received, nor gave Augustine Weah US$20,000 to be distributed to my deputies, neither did any of my deputies receive from me US$20,000.”
The prosecution had repeatedly claimed that upon Siryon’s instruction, Augustine Weah took the US$20,000 to the NHA’s office and presented same to Siryon in the presence of his two deputies.
Again, the prosecution alleged that on August 18, 2018, at the Royal Grand Hotel, Siryon received the amount of US$1,000 so as to sign and offer the construction contract to GELPAZ-IMMO, thereby depraving the government of its much-needed revenue generation.
In response to the allegation, Siryon claimed that “It is in the indictment that said magnitude was drawn on fabrication.”
Further to his defense against the accusation, Siryon said that on August 18, 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between NHA and GELPAZ-IMMO at the NHA’s office, and then the document was later attested to on August 19, 2018, by the Minister of Justice; and “because GELPAZ-IMMO representatives was to depart Liberia on August 19 to Burkina-Faso, I immediately took their copies, which were in both English and French, to the Royal Grand Hotel.”
Siryon claimed that after presenting GELPAZ-IMMO’s representatives with their copies of the MoU, Augustine Weah presented to him an envelope that looked like a letter. When he came downstairs and began to read, he discovered that it was his “thank you letter.”
“I saw US$1,000 in the note; I did not know the purpose of the US$1,000, and in my own conscience, I immediately returned said amount to Augustine Weah in the presence of GELPAZ-IMMO’s president and delegation,” Siryon claimed.
The case continues on today with Siryon still taking the witness stand.