-Defense first witness claims
The ongoing National Housing Authority (NHA) bribery scandal over the awarding of the 50,000 housing units contract to a company from Burkina Faso, GELPAZ-IMMO, on Thursday, October 25, 2019, took a dramatic twist when the defense’s first witness claimed that President George Weah was aware of the deal.
Isaac Roberts, NHA Deputy Director for Technical Services, claimed that President Weah is said to be in the know of the alleged US$400,000 that the company gave to Ambassador Augustine Weah under the pretext of offering the contract to him.
The US$400,000, according to Roberts, was transferred to Liberia by Ambassador Weah. Roberts did not mention any relationship of Ambassador Weah to President Weah during his testimony.
Roberts, who testified at Criminal Court ‘C’, alleged that when his boss, the former NHA managing director Duannah Siryon, talked about the US$400,000, and it reached President Weah, “the President knew about the money and Amb. Weah was approached, thus making him angry with Siryon, but Amb. Weah said clearly to us that he came to disgrace Siryon.”
Roberts also claimed that Amb. Weah informed them that he was going to make sure that Siryon was fired from the position, “And his Plan worked when the President dismissed Siryon, Tugbeh and me.”
Siryon, Tugbeh, Roberts and Amb. Augustine Weah, believed to be the chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies, were indicted on multiple crimes that ranged from theft of property, economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy and criminal solicitation for allegedly extorting US$92,000 from a man identified as Emmanuel Tapsoba, former coordinator for a Burkinabe company, called GHLPAZ-IMMO.
The company has been in the country to construct over 50,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA)/Monrovia Highway.
When he also appeared on Friday, October 25, 2019 as the defense second witness, Tugbeh supported Roberts’ accusation that US$400,000 was collected by Amb. Weah from executives of GHLPAZ-IMMO.
Tugbeh, like Roberts, clarified that he received the information about the US$400,000 being issued to Amb. Weah, from Siryon.
“I was informed by Siryon that Amb. Weah, when he was in Burkina Faso, was given the US$400,000,” Tugbeh alleged. Surprisingly he did not mention the purpose for which the money was given to him.
According to Tugbeh, when he asked Siryon about his source, Siryon informed him that it was a Burkinabe, named Benao Bazonon, widely known as BAZ that gave him the information.”
Prosecution claimed that to consummate the deal, GELPAZ-IMMO‘s project general coordinator, Emmanuel Tapsoba, presented the amount of US$80,000 to Siryon at the Royal Grand Hotel for purpose to liaise with other purported government officials of which Siryon allegedly concealed US$60,000 and later gave US$20,000 to Amb. Weah for distribution among Siryon’s two deputies, Tugbeh and Roberts.
It was during the unequal distribution of the US$80,000 bribe money that confusion, ensured among Siryon, Roberts, Tugbeh and Ambassador Weah, leading to the exposure of the scheme, the prosecution said.
In his response to that allegation, Tugbeh openly informed the court, saying: “I did not know about any confusion that ensured among us and Amb. Weah regarding unequal distribution of the US$80,000 that was allegedly given to Siryon on September 16, 2018.”
“I have absolutely no knowledge of my boss, Siryon receipt of US$80,000 at the Royal Grand Hotel, neither was I present when Amb. Weah gave Siryon US$20,000 in his office,” Tugbeh claimed.