Prosecution’s third witness in the ongoing bribery case involving two customs officers assigned with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) yesterday told Criminal Court ‘C’ that employees there solicit bribes from businesspeople to reduce taxes on goods they shipped into the country.
Abraham Gumbaja Sinayoko told the court that while trying to get his goods out of the Freeport of Monrovia, he was advised to hire the services of a broker, which he did by hiring one Varney Johnson.
“I gave all my shipping documents to Johnson, which he processed, but came back to ask for US$4,658 that I should pay to the LRA,” witness Sinayoko alleged.
After processing the document, the state witness explained that he prepared a manager’s check in the said amount on December 28, 2015, and gave it to his broker.
“Johnson told me that we were to come back on December 28 in the afternoon to reassess the documents. When we returned, he introduced me to one Joseph Weeks, [an] LRA customs officer,” Sinayoko told the court.
Weeks and Linda Sumowood were both assigned at the Customs Business Office at the Freeport of Monrovia. Both are charged with multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, bribery and criminal facilitation after they were allegedly caught on the CCTV footage receiving US$500 as a bribe from broker Johnson on behalf of Sinayoko.
According to Sinayoko, he met Weeks, who asked whether “I know anyone at the LRA head office that I can call to change the reassessment.”
Sinayoko claimed he responded in the negative.
“Weeks then said to me that if he were to do the reassessment, no one would reverse his decision,” Sinayoko said.
Later, he claimed that Weeks went back to his office and brought a piece of paper of which he assured him (Sinayoko) that his reassessment had reduced the amount to US$2,300.
“I said to Weeks that the amount was too high for a 20 foot container and he asked me to pay US$1, 000,” Sinayoko told the court.
“Weeks also informed me that the risk involved was too high, besides, he was going to give something to one Zayzay, who he claimed was his boss, in order for him to approve the re-assessed document.
“I asked him why I was paying the US$1,000, but he said, because of the risk, he was taking to reduce the money,” Sinayoko alleged.
Sinayoko also claimed that after hours of negotiating with Weeks about the US$1,000, it was reduced to US$500, which he gave to Weeks through Johnson.
“I attempted giving the US$500 to Weeks, but he said that they cannot take money from consignee, but rather through the broker, and I did,” the state witness alleged.
He claimed that after Johnson gave the US$500 to Weeks in his presence, a gentleman who had ‘watched the situation’ said, “You are under arrest.”
The case continues.