Criminal Court ‘C’ Presiding Judge Blamo Dixon is expected to decide on Friday, November 8, the fate of three suspended senior managers at the National Housing Authority (NHA), including its managing director Duannah Siryon, who have all been accused of corruption.
Judge Dixon’s decision comes immediately after hearing final legal argument between the defense team and government lawyers.
The accusation was levied by the government against Siryon, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, NHA Deputy Director for Administration, Isaac Roberts, Deputy Director for Technical Services, Augustine Weah, a purported chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies and Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO Coordinator in Liberia.
They were accused of extorting US$80,000 out of US$92,000 from a man identified as Emmanuel Tapsoba, former coordinator of GELPAZ IMMO, a Burkinabe Company.
The company had been in the country to construct over 50,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA)/Monrovia Highway.
In his argument, a government lawyer, J. Adolphus Karnuah, said that Defendants Siryon, Tugbeh, Roberts and Weah, between the periods of August 16 up to September 16, 2018, conspired and colluded with co-defendant Tapsoba, with criminal minds and intent to dupe the company (GELPAZ-IMMO) and to defraud the Government of Liberia by compromising the value for money work principle.
Karnuah argued that the actual work that should have been carried out by the company was undercut by the alleged act of the defendants by receiving the amount of US$80,000 out of the US$92,000 sent to the country on two separate occasions by the company.
“Co-defendant Emmanuel Tapsoba left Burkina Faso with US$50,000 on September 15, 2018, to come to Liberia to soften the ground, and Benao Bazonon also left Burkina Faso with US$42,000 on September 23, 2018; said amount of US$42,000 was also given to Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO’s Coordinator, who later turned same over to co-defendant Augustine Weah in the presence of Benao Bazonon for the said purpose,” state prosecutors alleged.
In counter argument, one of the defense’s lawyers, Cllr. Augustine Toe, asked the court to find the defendants not guilty, claiming that evidence government lawyers presented was not enough to convict the defendants of the crime allegedly charged.
Cllr. Toe further argued that the government lawyers claimed the amount of US$42,000 was given to Emmanuel Tapsoba, GELPAZ-IMMO’s Coordinator, who later turned same over to co-defendant Augustine Weah in the presence of Benao Bazonon for the said purpose.
However, in his argument, Toe said that on September 14, 2018, Siryon received a formal letter from President George Weah, where the President requested Siryon to join his delegation bound for the United States of America (USA) to attend the UN General Assembly.
And on September 19, 2018, at the request of the President, Siryon and his delegation left the country and only returned on October 7, 2018, by which time the GELPAZ-IMMO’s delegation had left the country.
“Why would the government say that Siryon collected money from the company when the delegation had already left the country prior to their departure?” Cllr. Toe wondered.
Siryon also argued that he, in respect to President Weah’s request, left the affairs of the NHA with his deputy Tugbeh, and as such he was not a party to any arrangement.
Prosecution also argued that the Burkina Faso-based company, GELPAZ-IMMO, through its Chief Executive Officer Alain Z. Zoungana, expressed interest in the growth and development of Liberia through a proposal to construct over 5,000 housing units along the highway leading to the Roberts International Airport.
Thereafter, the then Managing Director of the NHA, Co-defendant Siryon, was contacted through the company’s (GELPAZ-IMMO) former Coordinator, Emmanuel Tapsoba, regarding the company’s intention of building said structures in the country.
They alleged that based on the offer of the company to the NHA, Co-defendant Tugbeh, then Deputy Managing Director for Administration, and Patrick H. Delina, Engineer of NHA, traveled to Burkina Faso on July 1, 2018 to establish whether GELPAZ-IMMO had the capacity to do the work proposed to the NHA.
They also claimed that while in Burkina Faso, Defendant Tugbeh received 200,000 CFA which is equivalent to US$400 from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO as expenses or upkeep.
Also, Co-defendant Isaac Roberts traveled to the Burkina Faso on October 24, 2018, at which time he also solicited 250,000 CFA which, when converted, is equivalent to US$500 from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO as expenses incurred by him.
“That the act of receiving money from the Management of GELPAZ-IMMO by Co-defendants Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Isaac Roberts was against the MOU entered into between NHA and GELPAZ-IMMO, and the Public Procurement and Concession Law of Liberia,” the prosecution claimed.
They further argued that they received the accusation when the defendants were caught on an audio recording, arguing over an unequal distribution of the money.
The defendants denied the audio recording accusation when they testified during the hearing of the case.