Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo has offered a US$5,000 bounty to any media institution or individual that will provide evidence linking him to an alleged US$3 million bribery intended to relax in his duty to properly negotiate tax obligations payable by ArcelorMittal Liberia.
Minister Sendolo made the challenge yesterday at a regular press briefing at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia.
“I, Patrick Sendolo, have never, did not and will never request any sum, much less US$3 million, from ArcerlorMittal in return for me not performing my statutory duties; and I challenge publishers and broadcasters of local media institutions to produce evidence—the recording and a picture of the meeting—which are supposedly the basis of these scurrilous allegations. And I offer US$5,000 price, payable on demand for any person who will present these alleged facts,” he said.
It may be recalled that recently a local media reported that Minister Sendolo, the President’s lobbyist, and ArcelorMittal staff were heard on tape discussing a negotiated US$3 million to bribe lawmakers.
The report further indicated that the bribe was intended to influence legislators and key government officials to renegotiate AcelorMittal’s mining contract, give it a tax holiday and a compromised deal on its biomass energy project.
The kickback, according to the report, would also grant the multinational company the favorable status of “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) that would blind eyes on non-compliance with the terms and conditions of ArcelorMittal concession agreement in citing a “force majeure” due to the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia in 2014.
Minister Sendolo told journalists that he has worked professionally for a good number of years, locally and internationally, including the last nine years of service in the country, adding, “I believe, with distinction and honesty, in positions of exceptionally high trust and responsibility in this administration. There will, therefore, be consequences for any attempt by anyone to destroy what I have worked for so hard over the years.”
He also said that there are many good, responsible and ethical journalists in the country; nevertheless, there are also some who intend to impose a “tyrannical media.”
“We patriotic, peace-loving Liberians will not accept this and will resist it with all deliberate ruthlessness that the law allows,” he emphasized.
“To demonstrate our seriousness in this regard, my legal teams are already mobilized and fully engaged to take all necessary measures appropriate to demolish this tower of lies which they have erected, and to correct the injustice which I have suffered as a consequence of their malicious and irresponsible publications and broadcast of lies,” he said in a rather angry tone.
He said his legal team has already sent out letters to several “offending media institutions,” including the New Democrat, the newspaper that published the alleged bribery scheme.