Officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) yesterday sent four Fulani cyclists to the Monrovia City Court to face trial for allegedly organizing a syndicate through which they used photocopies of the original Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) biometric work permit belonging to one of the defendants, Mamadou Wura.
The ECOWAS biometric work permit costs US$100, but the defendants decided to dupe the system to achieve their individual motive, the police said.
The syndicate, according to police, was discovered by the Ministry of Labor (MOL), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) who coordinated and launched an investigation into the scam.
The suspects were arrested during a regular revenue enforcement scheme on the ECOWAS biometric work permit.
Defendant Wura, Mohammed Barry, Ebirme Jalloh and Chirno Mamadou Jalloh were charged with attempted economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, facilitation and fraud against the country’s internal revenue. The accused face up to five years in prison if found guilty.
However, the crimes are bailable, of which their relatives, including the Fula Governor in Liberia, were seen around the court’s premises visibly lobbying to secure their release from detention.
Up to press time, it was not clear whether the accused men’s legal team was successful in obtaining their bond.
A portion of the country’s Labor Law provides that “ECOWAS citizens who seek employment in the informal sector shall pay an annual work permit fee of at least US$100.”
Court records quoted Assistant Labor Minister for Regional Labor Affairs Attorney Prince M. Korvah as saying that on October 24, following a series of awareness campaigns, the defendants “deliberately refused” to pay the US$100 into the government’s revenue as required by labor law and practices.
Atty. Korvah claimed that the accused were caught red-handed with photocopies of LRA receipts when the agents were doing a routine system check.
Police alleged further that during the investigation, defendant Wura admitted that when he arrived in Liberia from Guinea, he was advised by his codefendants to join them to dupe the system as part of a scheme to allow them to permanently stay in the country.
While residing in Liberia, Wura claimed he applied for the work permit and it was issued to him as a motorist.
He said when the government entities were carrying out their respective inspection of work permits, the defendants were apprehended for falsifying the document.
“I gave the photocopy of my genuine document to Chirno to use it during the inspection process,” Defendant Wura said.
Wura claimed that after he gave the photocopied document to Chirno, he (Chirno) then photocopied it and gave same to Mamadou Barry, another defendant.
While defendants Chirno and Barry were using the photocopies of the work permit separately, Wura said they came across the labor inspectors who asked them to for their permit.
“It was then they presented the photocopies of my work permit and we were all later arrested before being turned over to the police,” Wura explained about their arrest.